Skip navigation

Standards-based assessment and Instruction

Science 6-8

How is My Breathing Rate Related to My Pulse?

Have you ever raced after someone, trying to catch up? When you finally caught up, you may have felt your heart pounding; and you were probably out of breath. In this investigation, you'll use what you've learned about the circulatory and respiratory systems and the purpose of blood to understand the connection between your breathing rate and how fast your heart may be pounding.

Your group will be assigned to a physical activity and work together to collect data on your heart and breathing rates. The task will have these roles: the "timer," the "runner/jumper," and the "pulse keeper." The "pulse keeper" should be the one who can find the pulse the easiest on the other person's wrist. You should practice taking these rates a few times before you begin investigating.

Record your data at rest and after one minute of the activity. Then make a table to show your findings. Be sure to include titles for the columns and rows. Next, use your data table to create a double line graph which shows both rates and what you discovered about the relationship between breathing rate and pulse. Your conclusions should tell whether your prediction was supported by the data.

Grade Level

6 - 8

Big Ideas and Unifying Concepts

Cause-Effect
Systems
Form and Function
Change-Constancy

Life Science Concept

Structure and function

Science in Personal and Societal Perspectives Concept

Personal health

Mathematics Concepts

Measurement
Data representation - Tables, Line graphs

Time Required for the Task

Two or three 45-minute periods

Context

My students had been studying the human body and its systems. We began with the circulatory system and investigated the heart and the purpose of blood. Students had also learned that blood carries certain things that are required by cells, tissue, and organs such as: nutrients, hormones, white blood cells, and oxygen.

For this science investigation, I integrated a data collection activity from our Every Day Math curriculum. This allowed students to apply their mathematics knowledge of data collection and data display to our science unit on the human body.

What the Task Accomplishes

After studying the circulatory system, students have learned that the blood transfers oxygen to cells for necessary functions. This investigation shows how the circulatory system is related to the respiratory system. Students are able to apply their understanding of this relationship to actually investigating their own body systems. They are also asked to display their data in two different representations.

How the Student Will Investigate

Students work in groups of two to three. We had a brief discussion about the task to get them thinking about the topic. Recording sheets provided some directions on how they would investigate the question. Each group had a stop watch and was assigned to either a jump rope or to the stairs. (Other possibilities might include running, doing jumping jacks, or engaging in any other physical activity.)

Before beginning, students recorded their pulse rates while at rest. After they recorded their pulse rates, they recorded their breathing rate for one minute. (The "timer" keeps track during the same time as pulse is recorded.) Once students were in their groups, I asked the class to think about how well they were able to record their pulses. Could they record their breathing rate without thinking much about it? If so, then that person might want to be the "runner." Another person, also good at recording, might want to be the recorder of the pulse. The third person could be the timer.

Then students went to their designated activity. One student completes the activity, while another times it. Then the "timer" keeps the time for one minute, the "pulse keeper" records the pulse, and the runner/jumper counts breaths. While students are performing the experiment, I monitor the pulse and breathing rates that they are writing down. If the rates seem to be off (e.g., pulse rate of 25, breathing rate of 5), you might have them show you one of their recording sessions, or ask if you could see someone else's pulse/breathing rate.

The students can then switch, so that the first student's breathing rate returns to normal. The second and third students can then complete the activity. Although the breathing rate and pulse may not be recorded at exactly the same time, the results are similar, and should not affect the graphing piece of the task.

After recording results in their tables, students should try this experiment at least one more time to ensure their results are accurate. They should then average their results. This might be a good place to break from the first class session.

During the second class, students can create graphs (with titles and keys). The most difficult part of this that I found was the scale of "beats per minute." Have the students look at all of their information to determine the scale of the graph. By using a full piece of graph paper, divided by increments of 5, we found our information to fit. You may prefer to have students do two separate graphs, although then the relationship between the two lines may not be as obvious.

Interdisciplinary Links and Extensions

Science

After completing this experiment, I found other examples of similar tasks. One variation was to use two separate graphs for pulse rate and breathing rate. Another was to time at more frequent intervals, from rest to 2 minutes at 30 second intervals. The experiments did not implicitly relate the two counts together, but instead were done to show how one could monitor both pulse and breathing rate.

Movement and Music

Students could select different types/tempos of music and predict how moving to each would affect heart and breathing rates. Most baroque music is very relaxing to listen to. It is often included in stress management programs because it can produce a heart rate of approximately 60 beats/minute in the listener. Students could explore the effects of listening to different music tempos and compare them to or rank them related to "at-rest" rates. Students could also collect heart rate and breathing rate data during a practice session for different sports or movement activities.

Mathematics

Students can construct line graphs of data for different physical activities for the purpose of comparing and ranking. Students could determine and discuss differences in the "average rates" for the class in terms of using the mean, median, or mode.

Health

Students can compare their investigation findings to research related to regular exercise, developing cardiovascular endurance, and physical fitness.

Teaching Tips and Guiding Questions

Have all students measure their pulses at rest (in a classroom setting). Finding the pulse rate on the wrist is a bit harder, but safer than using the neck. (If students press on both sides of the neck at the same time, they could pass out.) Take some time to teach students how to find their pulses. Explain to them to press lightly with the finger tips on the outer side of the wrist (not with their thumbs). They can try counting for a full minute and then try a count for 15 seconds, multiplying it by 4, to verify.

Write the class results on the board. Notice that most resting pulse rates can range from 75-100 beats per minute. Athletes tend to have slightly lower rates, due to conditioning. Some students will have a difficult time finding and recording their pulses, but may see from the results of their peers that a pulse rate of 20, for example, is impossible! You may suggest that those students either try it again, or choose to be the timer in the experiment.

Calculate and write the average pulse rate of the class on the board so that students can refer to it when recording their own data. (Not to use that information as their data, but to check theirs for accuracy).

While students are working on their hypotheses, elicit information from what they know about both the circulatory and the respiratory systems. Ask:

  1. What does each system do for your body?
  2. How does that relate to exercise? To fitness training?
  3. What causes you to have a pulse?
  4. What connection does the blood have to breathing and the heart?
  5. How can you determine who will be the "pulse keeper" and "time keeper?"
  6. What titles should be on your table? (You may need to review with the class what a table should look like, or refer to a previous experiment in which they made a table with the class.)
  7. Using your data, can you explain whether or not your hypothesis was correct?
  8. Look at your graph. What specific information can you find to back up your conclusion?
  9. What proof do you have that can help you to now answer the question "Is my breathing rate related to my pulse?"
  10. What would happen if you stopped exercising? (This may help them think about a rule to connect breathing rate to pulse.) Encourage students again to think of the function of both the respiratory and circulatory systems.

Concepts to be Assessed

(Unifying concepts/big ideas and science concepts to be assessed using the Science Exemplars Rubric under the criterion: Science Concepts and Related Content).

  • Students need to be able to use the terms pulse rate, breathing rate, respiratory system, and circulatory system appropriately and be able to describe cause-effect relationships with some justification, using data and prior knowledge.
  • Life Science: Identifying characteristics of organisms; Understanding that living systems demonstrate the complementary nature of structure and function.
  • Personal health: Developing an awareness that personal exercise, especially developing cardiovascular endurance, is the foundation of physical fitness.
  • Determining the patterns and/or which kinds of change are happening by making a graph or table of measurements. (Change-Constancy)
  • Observing and explaining reactions when variables are controlled. (Cause-Effect)
  • Mathematics: Creating a table; Graphing; Data analysis; Identifying patterns in data; Using tables and graphs to show how values of one variable are related (pulse and breathing rate) to values of another; Using numerical data and (precise) measurements.

Skills to be Developed

(Specific science process skills to be assessed using the Science Exemplars Rubric under the criteria: Scientific Procedures and Reasoning Strategies and Scientific Communication/Using Data).

Observing, Predicting/Hypothesizing, Collecting and recording data, Manipulation of Tools, Drawing conclusions, Communicating findings, and Challenging misconceptions

Links to Science (and other) Standards

  • Scientific Method: Students describe, predict, investigate, and explain phenomena.
  • Scientific Theory: Students look for evidence that explains why things happen, and modify explanations when new observations are made.
  • Life Science - Structure and Function: The human organism has systems for respiration, circulation, digestion, etc. which interact with one another. Living systems demonstrate the complementary nature of structure and function, including cells, tissues, organs systems, whole organisms, and ecosystems.
  • Science in Personal Health: Regular exercise is important to maintenance and improvement of health. Personal exercise, especially developing cardiovascular endurance, is the foundation of physical fitness.
  • Scientific Tools: Students use computers to organize, analyze, and interpret data.
  • Mathematics: Students use numerical data and (precise) measurements in describing events, answering questions, providing evidence for scientific explanations, and challenging misconceptions.

Suggested Materials

I had the following materials available for this activity: Jump ropes; stopwatches; a space for physical activity; graph paper, and rulers. Students also had recording sheets (included at the end of this task).

I also suggest access to computers so that students can enter their data and create an electronic graphic representation for the data displays.

Possible Solutions

The student should include a hypothesis, which states whether or not breathing rate is related to pulse. There should be some evidence of prior knowledge (of either the circulatory or respiratory system). The data table includes columns and rows, labels, and a title. Data for breathing rate and pulse rate are for at least 3 time frames. The data is accurately translated from the table and plotted on a graph (with title and accurate scale and labels for the axes of the graph). There should be a key on the graph to distinguish the two lines.

Conclusions accurately compare the breathing rate to the pulse rate and cite evidence from the data collected to support or refute the hypothesis.

The student gives a reasonable explanation of how s/he effectively used breathing rate, pulse, and a stopwatch to measure these.

NOTE: I usually score this type of assignment (one having many different parts to it) with points given for each section. This approach is called analytic scoring, rather than holistic scoring. I do this because many students can have, for example, a solid hypothesis and then a weak conclusions section, or an incomplete data table. Then I look to see where the strengths lie and try to weight the parts with the most important information a little more. This gives me the final holistic performance levels: Novice, Apprentice, Practitioner, and Expert.

Task Specific Rubric/Benchmark Descriptors
Click on a level for student example.
Novice
  • The student's hypothesis is only a one-word answer, "yes." It does not state any prediction or reasoning about breathing rate or pulse rate rising or falling. There is no evidence of knowledge of the circulatory or respiratory systems.
  • Data Table and data collection are incomplete. Only two time frames are recorded. The rates appear to be inaccurate, being that the pulse rate at rest is recorded as = 80 and after one minute of exercise, it is only = 30.
  • Some columns and rows have titles.
  • Titles and labels are missing from the graph, however a key is included. The scale and intervals on the graph are inconsistent. Data is plotted incorrectly on the graph.
  • Conclusions do not show evidence of reasoning or conceptual understanding. Neither the circulatory system nor the respiratory system are explained in the conclusion. There is only limited evidence of understanding the relationship between breathing rate and pulse.
Apprentice
  • The student's hypothesis states whether or not breathing rate is related to pulse.
  • The Data Table includes a title and labels for the columns and rows; but does not have data in chronological order (from at rest to three minutes). The Table includes data for breathing rate and pulse rate for a minimum of 3 time frames. Data appears to be accurate and complete.
  • A title and axis labels are not included for the graph. No key is included.
  • The intervals for each axis of the graph are consistent, but the data is not shown correctly on the graph.
  • Conclusions accurately compare the breathing rate to the pulse rate.
  • This student's solution is lacking in detail, in that no specific examples from the data are used to support the conclusions.
  • The student's explanation attempts to show reasoning, but is not supported by data collected. The explanation does not show a cause-effect relationship and is not consistent with the available data.
Practitioner
  • The student's hypothesis states whether or not breathing rate is related to pulse and includes some prior knowledge of the circulatory and the respiratory systems.
  • The Data Table includes columns and rows, labels, and a title.
  • The Table includes data for breathing rate and pulse rate for at least 3 time frames, recorded chronologically.
  • Although a title is not included, labels for the axes of the graph are accurate (including measurement). The scale for each axis is appropriate for the data collected and is shown correctly on the graph.
  • The data is accurately translated from the table, and plotted on the graph.
  • A key is included on the graph to distinguish the two lines.
  • Conclusions accurately compare the breathing rate to the pulse rate.
  • Conclusion clearly cites evidence from the data collected to support or refute the hypothesis. The student gives a reasonable explanation based on available data.
Expert
  • The student's hypothesis (which states whether or not breathing rate is related to pulse) relates the respiratory system to the circulatory system. Examples show evidence of applying prior knowledge.
  • The Data Table includes columns and rows, labels, and a title.
  • The Table includes data for breathing rate and pulse rate for 3 time frames, recorded chronologically. Data appears to be accurate.
  • A title and labels for the axes of the graph are included and accurate (including measurement).
  • The scale for each axis is appropriate for the data collected and is shown correctly on the graph.
  • The data is accurately translated from the table, and plotted on the graph.
  • A key is included on the graph to distinguish the two lines.
  • There is clear evidence of scientific reasoning in the conclusion.
  • Conclusions are supported by data.
  • There is evidence of extended thinking, such as what might happen when the person rests 3-5 minutes. The data trend is correctly identified from the graph and used to support reasoning.

Back to top

Our teacher-friendly tasks are designed to support both the Common Core and Citywide instructional expectations. GO Math! alignments are also available.
Set up your FREE 30-day Trial today!

Explore our latest K-5 math material and begin using it in your classroom.
Set up your FREE 30-day Trial today!

Here's What People Are Saying

Thank you for the great hands-on ideas!

C. Levake

1st Grade Teacher

Exemplars | 271 Poker Hill Road | Underhill, Vermont 05489 | ph: 800-450-4050 | fax: 802-899-4825 | infoREMOVETHISBEFORESENDING@exemplars.com

Copyright © 2010–2014 Exemplars. All Rights Reserved.