Anybody can teach science: Do glasses make you smarter?

Teach science with a pair glasses—it’s that easy!

You do not need all the answers to teach science—you simply need an inquisitive mind and be willing to carry out an investigation. You can teach science, even when you don’t know diddly-squat! The following is a simple experiment you can try with a pair of glasses. The purpose is not to teach specific content, but to teach the process of science: asking questions and discovering answers. This activity is to encourage young people to try to figure things out for themselves rather than just read an answer on the internet or in a book.

Do glasses make you smarter?

This activity can be done in 20 minutes or multiple days, depending on the interest and questions the youth have. Materials needed are glasses without lenses, pencil and paper, Sudoku puzzles or math problems (both can be found online or books at a local library), and stopwatch (or smartphone stopwatch app).

Use Science and Engineering Practices to engage youth in the experiment. These are connected to in-school science standards that all children must meet.

  • Asking questions and defining problems
  • Developing and using models
  • Planning and carrying out investigation
  • Analyzing and interpreting data
  • Using mathematics and computational thinking
  • Constructing explanations and designing solutions
  • Engaging in argument from evidence
  • Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

Asking questions and defining problems

A common TV and movie cliché is that smart people wear glasses. Do glasses make people smarter? Where do you think that idea came from? Do kids in your school who have better grades wear glasses?

Planning and carrying out investigations

Have someone do a Sudoku puzzle or answer math problems with and without glasses. Should the person use the same set of puzzles or different ones? Why? What about environmental conditions, such as light, temperature, comfort, etc.? Should you try different variables?

Using mathematics and computational thinking

Create a chart with the person timed to complete Sudoku or math problems, like the one below. How much of a difference did the glasses make?


Speed (with glasses)

Speed (without glasses)

Developing and using models

This experiment is a model for testing how smart someone is. Does it work? Are Sudoku games and math problems important for real life? Are they good measures of how smart someone is? Are there other ways to test “smartness?”

Analyzing and interpreting data

Do glasses make people smarter? Is it relevant at all? What about accuracy and proper answers? Should speed be the only measuring criteria for being smart?

Engaging in argument from evidence

Would you recommend having poorly performing students wear glasses to improve their grades? Why or why not?

Obtaining, evaluating and communicating information

Why do you think movies and TV shows keep putting glasses on smart characters? Is this accurate? Would you recommend they change their practices?

Related questions to explore:

  • What things are relevant to improving scores on tests?
  • Does background noise affect how well people perform? How much? How could you test this idea?

Asking questions like those mentioned above about something we see a lot, but may not know a lot about, is a great way to explore science around us in our everyday lives. Michigan State University Extension and the Michigan 4-H Youth Development program help to create a community excited about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). 4-H STEM programming seeks to increase science literacy, introducing youth to the experiential learning process that helps them to build problem-solving, critical-thinking and decision-making skills. Youth who participate in 4-H STEM content are better equipped with critical life skills necessary for future success. To learn more about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth in STEM literacy programs, read our 2015 Impact Report: “Building Science Literacy and Future STEM Professionals.”

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