How Many Trees Do I Need to Learn?




Jared Hamilton, Mathematics Specialist, Dallas, Texas. 



My experiences using Wipebook products at-home and in the classroom as a learner and as a teacher led me to designing the following inquiry for my students that I now share with our readers. I hope you enjoy using this lesson plan with your students.



Lesson Introduction



This activity focuses on data collection and representation, setting the stage for an investigation of paper consumption in a classroom environment.  Students will have opportunities to record how much paper they consume in their classrooms, and represent their data using various charts (bar charts, pictographs, or a line graph).  After the data collection, our students will be able to model their consumption using tables, rates, ratio and equations, and perform investigations such as price of paper used, trees consumed, and make inquiries or considerations to alternate means of learning (digital or non-permanent surfaces). For example: what could schools purchase with the money we saved from not using paper?



All students can access this activity, as they will be working with supplies they would typically use in a classroom environment.  Students need to be diligent when recording paper materials they consume each day for accurate data.  The activity can easily be differentiated as the data collection can be continuous or set over a fixed time period (two school weeks) where students can extrapolate their consumption of paper.  Collaboration is also encouraged as the data can be combined for larger scale investigations.  I strongly encourage having students switch to a paperless model for a duration of time, that way students can include this personal experience of learning without paper as a part of their personal reflection/inquiry.



The task involves five stages:

  • data collection & reflection;
  • data representation & reflection;
  • investigation on paper consumption;
  • comparing/combining results;
  • going paperless (optional) & personal reflection/inquiry.



Curricular Competencies and Content



Curricular competencies


  • collaboration and problem solving;
  • reasoning and modelling;
  • understanding and solving;
  • communicating and representing;
  • connecting and reflecting; and
  • incorporating elements of technology.



Curricular content



  • building mathematical vocabulary;
  • data collection and representation with charts;
  • discussion of advantages and disadvantages of different charts;
  • reflection on the data collection for validity and bias;
  • performing calculations such as addition and multiplication with real world numbers;
  • modeling and solving continuous and discrete equations (most likely linear);
  • making predictions from the data and graphs (interpolation and extrapolation) using calculations and a line of best fit;
  • investigate cost unit structures such as price and weight.




There are many potential follow-up activities involving the data students collect during this activity, or that involve creating new data. These include:


  • using technology to collect data and construct charts;
  • considering various forms of collaboration such as partners, classrooms, schools, districts, or digital collaboration (using skype or zoom);
  • cross curricular connections to environment science such conserving trees, oxygen and carbon dioxide production, and global warming;
  • using data collection and performing research to develop a presentation representing the students views and results and a suggestion for future actions regarding how we use paper in our schools, and how we can adapt to paperless models.





  • 8.5” x 11” lined, graph and copy paper;
  • pens, pencils, erasers, crayons, pencil crayons, markers;
  • Wipebook workbooks, vertical surfaces and other non-permanent surfaces;
  • dry erase markers and erasers;
  • ruler, scissors, glue;
  • digital technology such as laptops, desktops, tablets and various software.



Data Collection



Students will create a tally Chart and will record their personal paper consumption daily.  The data collection should be a representation of the normal classroom routine, and as such, the time frame will vary from classroom to classroom.  Two to five weeks should serve as a recommended sample size.  Once the individual data is collected students can chose to combine results into groups or work individually.



After the Data Collection



After collecting data on their paper consumption, students are tasked with analyzing their results.  Using their data students will



  • comment on accuracy of the data and acknowledge any possible bias that may have occurred;
  • create 2 or more charts representing results;
  • discuss the pros and cons of each chart created;
  • use data and charts to generalize and predictions about paper consumption: one between data points (interpolation) and another beyond the data (extrapolation);
  • validate predictions by other means such as modelling results with an equation or using mathematical processes such as ratio and proportion directly;
  • connect results on paper consumption (over a fixed time period, for example one school year per one student) to cost structures and tree consumption.  Students will need to conduct research or be provided this information by their teacher;
  • the exemplar uses a 180-day school calendar and an average cost of 5 cents per sheet of paper;
  • reflect on budgetary and conservation concepts, such as:
    • how much money would we save if we used non-paper materials for daily learning, and how could we use the money we saved for other educational resources?
    • how could the world we live in change by reducing the number of trees we process for paper usage?
  • answer personal reflection questions. 



Here is the link to the lesson plan and worksheet:  Going Paperless in the Classroom Exploration Project 



You May Also Like: