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Order It Up!

This material is replicated on a number of sites as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service Project


"Order It Up" is a computer game that could be the basis for a great think-pair-share activity about solar system statistics. UCAR has a series of space trivia (Java Applet) games that are meant for individuals to play online. A teacher in front of a classroom with an Internet-capable computer and a computer projector could project the game onto the screen. There's no time limit for each puzzle. The one I was thinking of is Order It Up, in which the players are supposed to put planets in order on the basis of various statistics (i.e. mass, # of moons, etc.). Players must complete several puzzles to finish the game and it keeps score with a jumbled photo of a planet that unjumbles as the player orders different planet lists. The game gives the players 10 total hints. It takes between 5 and 10 minutes for individuals to play. The individual puzzles (8-10 of them in random order) would make good think-pair-share activities, especially if students have just read a chapter on the planets.

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Learning Goals

This exercise gives students:
  • A quantitative perspective on the solar system
  • An appreciation for the differences among the planets

Context for Use

There are about 8-10 lists, so with 2-3 minutes of student discussion and about 5 minutes of lecture per list, this would fill a 75 minute period.

Teaching Materials

The instructor will need:

  • A computer with an Internet connection
  • A projector for the computer
  • A web browser with a Java plug-in
  • The Order it up applet (more info) - no charge or restrictions on use.
  • A buzzer

Teaching Notes and Tips

For each list, give the student pairs 2 minutes (use a buzzer?) to assemble a list. Then the class as a whole should direct the instructor to enter the answers into the applet and decide whether to go for a hint. In between puzzles, the lecturer would explain details such as why Uranus and Neptune have such low gravities given their sizes. Having students ask questions after completing lists might be a good way to direct the lecture element.


This activity includes informal assessment of the class.

References and Resources

UCAR's site also contains a wealth of instructional material about space, images, links (some to data), tours of such topics as "Water on Mars", and other useful items. It also contains other games, two of which could be adapted into activities:

  • Space Sense (more info) : a trivia game dealing with the solar system and the history of space exploration with variable difficulty settings.
  • Junk in Space (more info) : the players must sort junk from functioning technology in orbit. It takes less than 5 minutes.

For more trivia on a variety of subjects:

  • Energy and Mineral Resources. This site contains 16 questions on the topic of energy and mineral resources, which covers energy sources, resource types, and uses of resources. This is part of the Principles of Earth Science course at the University of South Dakota. Users submit their answers and are provided immediate verification. ( This site may be offline. )
  • On the Move...Continental Drift and Plate Tectonics. This site introduces the concept of continental drift and describes evidence supporting it. The role of NASA in investigating continental drift and some of the technology they use to study the geodynamics of Earth are described. Reasons why continental drift should matter to a student are given. There is also an interactive map, glossary, word search game, and a quiz. (more info)
  • Teachers who participated in the TCEQ's Teaching Environmental Sciences (TES) course developed the following lesson plans.. These Texas Commission on Environmental Quality lesson plans involve air pollution, air pressure, acid rain, water conservation and quality, waste and composting, and more. School projects such as recycling day and Earth day are provided. There are also environmental game ideas and a link to a question bank that can be used in the games. ( This site may be offline. )
  • The Watershed Game. This web site provides an introduction to the issues surrounding the use of water. It offers an interactive question and answer format that allows users to see the direct result of their decision with respect to the use of the watershed in four main subject areas. The areas of concern are: national parks, agriculture, neighborhoods, and cities. (more info)
  • USGS Learning Web: Students. This United States Geological Survey (USGS) Learning Web site offers project ideas for environmental science issues, and links to homework help in geology, biology, geography, and hydrology. There are also links to on-line glossaries, clipart collections, paper models, and a trivia game. (more info)