A fight between an apple and a potato. A lesson for teaching reading scales, mean average, range and bar charts.

Having just started my first full time teaching post I was lucky enough to spend last week observing my new colleagues teach. During this time I met a really inspirational maths teacher who was using the guise of a fight between an apple and a potato as a way of teaching reading scales, interpreting information from diagrams, calculating mean and range and producing bar charts. As I’m going to be teaching Functional Skills to disaffected 16-18 year olds I predicted that this lesson will go down a storm with my own learners so I decided to ‘steal’ this lesson idea and share with my readers.

  • The lesson starts off by showing the students an apple and a potato. Ask the students who they think would win in a fight and get them to brainstorm their ideas then discuss their answers.
  • Introduce today’s lesson objectives.
  • Draw various scale faces on the board with arrows to different weights. Ellicit answers from the students in order to check their knowledge.
  • Students then complete scales worksheet 
  • Tell the students that they are going to calculate who would win the fight between the apple and potato by weighing them. Whichever is the heaviest wins the fight. Discuss results.


  • In pairs give the students a selection of apples and potatoes to weigh. The weights should be recorded to use later.
  • Ask the students to look at their data and decide who they think would have won the war.
  • Introduce and explain mean average. Then ask the students to work out the mean weight of the apples and then the potatoes. Which group was heaviest? Which group would have won?
  • Introduce range. Students work out the range of their results.
  • Then the students complete Skillswise worksheet on mean averages.
  • Imtroduce bar charts.
  • Show the students a large bar chart about activities that a group of people are doing on a bus. Ellicit infomaton from the students to check their knowledge e.g where is the y axis, what should all bar charts have so we can identify what they’re about, what is missing from the bar chart. Graph – activities that people are doing on the bus
  • Ask questions that require them to interpret and compare infomation e.g how many more passengers are staring into space compared to picking their nose
  • Give each student a copy of the zombie attack worksheet. Zombie attack bar chart worksheet
  • Students then create their own questionnaire to ask their classmates.
  • Students question their class mates and make a bar chart from the results. They then create a series of questions regarding their bar charts and swap these with their neighbour. They then swap the sheets back inorder to mark the answers.

Extension and fillers

As a group – most scales use markers of 25 – throw a ball around randomly, whoever the ball lands on shouts the number out.  Use this as a way of getting the students to count up and down to 300 using multiples of 25.

Individual or small groups – show the students five objects and 5 pre-marked scale faces. The students match the objects to the corresponding weight.

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