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Module 7
Mean, Median, and Mode

Exploring Storms from the Sun

Objectives: During the last sunspot cycle between 1996-2008, over 21,000 flares and 13,000 clouds of plasma exploded from the sun's magnetically active surface. Students will learn more about space weather through reading a NASA press release and viewing a NASA eClips video segment. Then students will explore the statistics of various types of space weather storms by determining the mean, median and mode of different samples of storm events.

Mathematics Skill or Topic Area:

Mean, Median and Mode

Next Gen Science Standards: PS1: Matter and Its Interactions; PS3: Energy

Common Core ELA for Science: RST.6-8.2. Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; provide an accurate summary of the text distinct from prior knowledge or opinions. RST.6-8.8. Distinguish among facts, reasoned judgment based on research findings, and speculation in a text. RST.6-8.9. Compare and contrast the information gained from experiments, simulations, video, or multimedia sources with that gained from reading a text on the same topic.

Common Core Math Standard: CC.7.SP.1 Understand that statistics can be used to gain information about a population by examining a sample of the population.

Video Engagement: Space Weather This NASA eClips video segment looks at space weather and examines the major impacts that space weather can have on Earth (5 minutes). View Program

Engage your students with a press release:

Large X-class Flare Erupts on the Sun!

The sun erupted with one of the largest solar flares of this solar cycle on March 6, 2012 at 7PM EST. This flare was categorized as an X5.4, making it the second largest flare -- after an X6.9 on August 9, 2011 -- since the sunís activity segued into a period of relatively low activity called solar minimum in early 2007. The current increase in the number of X-class flares is part of the sunís normal 11-year solar cycle, during which activity on the sun ramps up to solar maximum, which is expected to peak in late 2013.

About an hour later, at 8:14 PM ET, March 6, the same region let loose an X1.3 class flare. An X1 is 5 times smaller than an X5 flare.

These X-class flares erupted from an active region named AR 1429 that rotated into view on March 2. Prior to this, the region had already produced numerous M-class and one X-class flare. The region continues to rotate across the front of the sun, so the March 6 flare was more Earthward facing than the previous ones. It triggered a temporary radio blackout on the sunlit side of Earth that interfered with radio navigation and short wave radio.

In association with these flares, the sun also expelled two significant coronal mass ejections (CMEs), which are travelling faster than 600 miles a second and may arrive at Earth in the next few days. In the meantime, the CME associated with the X-class flare from March 4 has dumped solar particles and magnetic fields into Earthís atmosphere and distorted Earth's magnetic fields, causing a moderate geomagnetic storm, rated a G2 on a scale from G1 to G5. Such storms happen when the magnetic fields around Earth rapidly change strength and shape. A moderate storm usually causes aurora and may interfere with high frequency radio transmission near the poles. This storm is already dwindling, but the Earth may experience another enhancement if the most recent CMEs are directed toward and impact Earth.

Press release date line - March 3, 2012

Press release location: [ Click Here ]

Explore math connections with


Problem I - How Common are X-Class Solar Flares - Students work with a catalog of X-class flares during the last sunspot cycle (1996-2008) and determine the statistical properties of these events. Topics include calculating mean, median and percentage. [Open PDF]

Problem II - Sunspots and Satellites - When theres more theres less. - Students use a table of sunspot numbers and the number of satellites that re-enter Earths atmosphere each year to study the effects of solar activity on satellite burn up. Topics include calculatuing mean, median and mode from a table. [Open PDF]

Explain your thinking:

Write your own problem - Using information found in the Math Connection problems, the press release or the video program, create your own math problem that involves the different types of solar storms. Explain why you set the problem up this way and how you might find its answer.

Evaluate your understanding:

Challenge Problem - Along with solar flares and coronal mass ejections, solar storms can also produce high-energy bursts of protons called Solar Proton Storms. From a list of 31 of these SPSs detected between 1997 and 2001, calculate the mean, median and mode of these radiation storm intensities, and the median date when they occur. Explain how you arrived at this answer. [Open PDF]

Answer: The answer to this problem is provided in the PDF.



3-D Solar System

Extend your new knowledge - Students use the Eyes on the Solar System simulator to study the orbit of Jupiter and how the variation in its distance from the sun can be described in terms of mean, median and mode. [ Open PDF ]