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EFFL on a Budget!

Updated: Aug 9, 2023

During many teachers' first year of teaching with Stats Medic, they are excited for a year full of fun activities that keep the students engaged and thinking. While all the lessons for the students are free on Stats Medic, one thing we can’t forget is making sure we have all the materials needed to create the Experience part of the lesson (the stuff we can’t print - dotplots, Barbie dolls, candy).

Whether you are a first year teacher needing to acquire everything, an experienced teacher needing to replace some missing materials, or someone who just looked at your lesson plan and realized you need a specific item for today's lesson, we have some ideas that can make creating an engaging classroom possible for even tight budgets or when time is of the essence.

Creating Dotplots

This all starts on Day 1, when we introduce students to the idea of building dotplots through the activity “Can Joy Smell Parkinson's?”.

Whether it’s trying to determine if Beyonce wrote her own lyrics or how much we loved the JT concert in Unit 3, students analyzing the proportion of orange Reese's Pieces in Unit 5, or trying to figure out if seat location matters in Unit 9, dotplots keep popping up throughout the course. You’ve probably heard our suggestion of using poster board and sticker dots, but let’s look at some alternative methods to this idea.

Use Dollar Store Wrapping Paper

Turns out you can get an entire roll of wrapping paper for about a dollar! While the front may have fun colors or pretty images of balloons, the back is usually white with a grid. Cutting off a rectangular piece of this gives your students a nice space to put their dots while the grid also makes it super easy to create a number line.


One of our favorite suggestions to give students the physical experience of putting their data on the board is to have them use bingo dabbers. You only need about two for the entire class, and this investment will probably last you all year long (if not more!). They make outstanding circles and come in a variety of colors to help keep your plots looking exceptional.

Can’t get bingo dabbers? A king-size Sharpie or Expo marker still allows the kids to get the job done. Model for them what an appropriate size dot will look like, but in a pinch, students can still get their data displayed for you to reference.

Don’t Have Paper To Make The Chart On?

Put the number line on a whiteboard or a Promethean board. For either style, students can simply add their data to the board (just don’t use an Expo marker on a Promethean board!). We always want to reference these charts later, so be sure to save a screenshot or the document if using the Promethean board. If you're using a whiteboard, take a picture before erasing it (and if you want to get really fancy, you can make an upfront investment on these Rocketbook Beacons that digitize your your whiteboard!).

No Barbie Dolls or Cars?

Teaching students two-variable analysis requires some unusual items. Sometimes these Barbie dolls and pull-back cars can be found at thrift stores, but when you don’t have time to shop or have no luck finding them, always remember that other things work! While we say "Barbie" in the lesson, realistically these could be any type of super hero or action figure. Here's a few suggestions for getting even more creative:

Make Friends With The Science Department

Check in on what the science department has up their sleeves. They may have hanging mass weights (which work in place of the Barbies) or other weighted items that can go bungee jumping.

Sometimes they have air track cars (frictionless vehicles) or some other type of car for motion labs. Instead of finding the distance a pull back car travels as its pull back distance increases, consider using a ramp and finding the distance one of these cars travels as it's placed further up the ramp. As it turns out, a little thought can create a variety of similar activities. For example, if you are already armed with rubber bands from bungee jumping, have students measure the distance they pulled a rubber band back vs. how far it flew.

Get Your Students Involved

If students are working in groups in EFFL fashion, consider having their group track down an item they want to go bungee jumping. Remember, while it's called "Bungee Barbie" it doesn't have to be a Barbie doll. Perhaps they know where they can find something from school or one of their group members can bring something from home. Just be sure to not let them bungee anything breakable!

If you are worried about kids not being able to find stuff, consider making it “extra credit” for them to do the finale. Have them use a common item (like the hanging masses from the science department) for all the actual lessons. If their group brings in their own item and completes the Barbie Bungee Finale document based on their item - let them bungee jump it after school for extra points. This individual time with that group can be a great relationship builder to enhance your learning environment on a day-to-day basis.

Dice, Coins, Cards, Globes?

Everything is a simulation!

If you don’t have the physical object for the activity, have the kids practice what they might be required to do on the AP Exam - design a simulation. In the activity “Can you get a pair of Aces or a pair of Kings?”, students are asked to play a simple card game. We could reimagine this activity by having groups design a simulation that would represent the game:

A random number generator can do great for representing many devices (for a coin: 1 = head, 2 = tails, for a die: randomly choose 1 - 6, for a full deck of cards: come up with a numbering scheme for what the numbers 1 - 52 represent). for Doing Simulations is an amazing site that has many options for letting the students experiment. So many different options here!

You may wonder how to do the activity “What Proportion of the Earth is Water?” from Unit 6 if you don’t have giant inflatable globes.

On that list you'll find a “Geographic Coordinate Generator” so the students can repeatedly sample locations from the planet and record if they are land or water.

How About All The Candy Lessons?

Online Simulations

In the lesson “What Proportion of Reese’s Pieces are Orange?”, you can make use of some online simulations if you don't have the budget for the real thing. In the activity you’ll be acquainted with the Rossman Chance Applet for Reese’s Pieces, but you may not be aware that this amazing site also has virtual M&M’s as well!

Another great resource for selecting virtual types of M&M’s is They have a candy lab that can be easily worked into lessons, especially as you approach the Unit 8 lesson, “Which Color M&M is the Most Common?" activity.

Paper Candy?

If you aren’t sure about the tech side, you can make your own “bags” of candy by creating them on a piece of paper. We definitely recommend printing them in color if you go this route, but this will allow your students to still get the experience of data collection! AP Stats Monkey has a variety of M&M types that are ready to use, or can at least show you how to adapt this concept for yourself.

Buy Once, Cry Once

You can always represent colored candy by using beads. Not only are these able to be purchased in bulk, but they can also be reused each year. Amazon has bulk beads available and you can buy them by color to represent whatever activity you are trying to recreate.

If you still want some real candy involved, consider having a few “real bags” for groups who write their work on the board or give valuable insight to the activity! We promise the next time a candy lesson comes up, you’ll see an increase in the group work.

Go Virtual

If there is one thing that became clear in recent years - it’s that teachers have had to learn how to adapt their instruction to a variety of settings, especially online. Teachers from all over the world have banded together to create some really meaningful online resources that we can continue to use as we move back to in-person instruction.


Several of the activities from the Stats Medic lessons are now on Stapplet, which is an amazing tool to collect data collaboratively even if the activity itself is not present. This can help make your dotplots and other graphical displays without needing any extra resources. Check out the "Can Joy Smell Parkinson's?", "How Much Do Fans Really Love Justin Timberlake?", or "Is Mrs. Gallas a Good Free Throw Shooter?" to play around with how they work.


Another awesome resource for giving students a learning experience is the Stats Medic Desmos Collection. If you have never checked out this resource before, we highly recommend it - as it truly is ready-to-use without the supplement of any additional materials.

Use Prefilled Data

Last, when in doubt, you can always fall back on using the pre-collected data from the answer keys. This will let the students hop into the discussion and analysis of the data without the need for them to focus on so many manipulatives. In fact, to make the timing work, the 42-minute adapted versions of the lessons will have most of this work already done for you.

Remember, the quality of education our students receive should not come from the budget or resources we have, but the opportunities we are able to create. With some creativity and help, we can still give high-quality instruction with minimal cost and reusable tools that will last for years to come.

Finally, if your school serves low income and/or minority students, you might be eligible for a scholarship to pay for materials for your classroom. Apply for a scholarship here.

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