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Human Dimensions Project 










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At our first workshop the comment was made that "it has been said that our wingspan is the same as our height. Is this true?" A few had heard about this relationship, however, no one could really present any compelling evidence aside from Leonardo Da Vinci's "Vitruvian Man". We decided to start a collaborative project to answer this question.

The most effective method for data collection would seem to use a Google Doc spreadsheet and a form to allow teachers and students to submit their data and view the complete dataset easily and quickly.

We expanded the data to allow for submitting data regarding foot and forearm length to see if a relationship existed there as well. The data shoudl be analyzed to see what the ratio is between the wingspan and height as well as the forearm and foot length to see how close that ratio is to one and to see what precision exists in the data.


  • NJ Standard 4.2.7 D Units of Measurement
  • NJ Standard 4.3.7 C Modeling
  • NJ Standard 4.4.7 A Data Analysis
  1. Find a partner or partners to help collect data on each other.
  2. Measure each other's dimensions as outlined below.
  3. Enter the data in the Google Doc in the Data section below.
  4. Open the spreadsheet, go to File and Export and select .xls if you have Excel and wish to analyze the data in Excel.
  5. Analyze the data and see if indeed wingspan and height are related and if forearm and foot length are related.

Measure the following human dimensions using the directions provided:

  1. Wingspan
  2. 1. While standing, extend arms in opposite directions horizontally at shoulder height.  

    2. Using a tape measure, measure wingspan (cm). Wingspan is defined as the distance from the tip of the middle finger of one hand to the tip of the middle finger of the other hand.

    3. Record measurement.

    3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 for your partner.

  3. Height

    1.  Remove your shoes.
    2. One person lean against the chart paper that is taped on the wall. Make sure your head and heels are touching the wall!!!!!
    3. Place a ruler flat on top of your head to ensure that your head is straight. If the person you are measuring is a lot taller than you, use a level to be sure you are holding the ruler horizontal.
    4. Have partner mark your height with a marker next to the ruler.
    5. Place tape measure at the bottom of the wall and pull the tape measure up to your marked height.  Find the height (in cm).
    6. Repeat same procedures with your partner.
    7. Record data in the appropriate area.  Example: Ms. Coppola is 161.0 cm.  

  4. Forearm + hand

    Forearm plus hand

    1. Collect Materials (Meter Stick)
    2. Move a flat table against a wall to form a 90 degree angle
    3. Place meter stick flat on table, tight against the wall.
    4. Put elbow against wall and place arm and hand directly on meter stick.
    5. Measure the length of forearm and hand in centimeters (keep fingers and forearm straight)
    6. Measure to the tip of your longest finger (do not count long nails)
    7. Record your measurement.

  5. Forearm

      Forearm without hand

      1. Collect Materials (Meter Stick)
      2. Move a flat table against a wall to form a 90 degree angle
      3. Place meter stick flat on table, tight against the wall
      4. Place arm and hand on the table right along side the meter stick
      5. Locate the wrinkle line on your wrist (as shown in the photograph)

      6. Record measurement .


  7. Foot
    1. Take off the right shoe.
    2. Using a meter stick placed aginst the wall, line your right heel up to the zero line. Keep the meter stick on the inside of your foot.
    3. Stand up straight and have another student use a ruler to line up the tip of your longest toe to the meter stick.
    4. Measure to the nearest millimeter.
    5. Record your measurement.

Once you have collected your class' data, have students enter it in the Google Doc form below. And then click on "View the data" to see the data that has been entered. You will see your class' data added to the teacher data from 1.27.09.

Fill out the Google Doc form

View the data

Teacher Data from 1.27.09



Size of a Human: Body Proportions from The Physics Factbook™ Edited by Glenn Elert -- Written by his students

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