Reaction time test

Stage 3 – A thinking mathematically context for practise focussed on recording and analysing time-related data


Syllabus outcomes and content descriptors from Mathematics K–10 Syllabus © NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) for and on behalf of the Crown in right of the State of New South Wales, 2023


  • MAO-WM-01 
  • MA3-NSM-02

Collect resources

You will need:

  • pencils or markers

  • your mathematics workbook

  • 30cm ruler.


Watch the Reaction time test video (0:37).

Measure your reaction time.

(Duration: 37 seconds)

[A person holds one end of a clear plastic, 30-centimetre ruler with one hand. The ruler dangles vertically from their hand. Their other hand hovers over the other end of the ruler. They drop the ruler and catch it, roughly a third of the way up, with the other hand.

Text over a white background: And again… In slow motion.

The action plays again, in slow motion.

Over a grey background, the red waratah of the NSW Government logo appears amongst red, white and blue circles. Text: Copyright State of New South Wales (Department of Education), 2021.]

[End of transcript]


  • To conduct the test, one person holds the ruler up reasonably high. The zero mark on the ruler is at the bottom.

  • The reacting person places finger and thumb at the bottom of the ruler, not touching but ready to grab.

  • At an unpredictable time, the first person drops the ruler.

  • The reacting person catches it between their finger and thumb, and reads the distance below the thumb.

  • Conduct the test 5 times and record the results.

  • Convert the data into times using the ruler drop reaction time chart.

An example of a reaction time chart An example of a reaction time chart
Image: An example of a reaction time chart


  • Draw a number line showing the reactions times.
  • Circle your fastest and slowest reaction times.

  • What is the difference between them?

  • Explore how does your reaction time compare with other people in your family?


Share your work with your class on your digital platform. You may like to:​

  • share your discoveries
  • write comments​
  • share pictures of your work​
  • comment on the work of others.

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