cell division

Cell Division

A basic activity illustrating simple cell division.


To provide an opportunity for students with visual impairments to experience how the division of cells increases the number of cells exponentially

Background information

This is a basic cell division activity that is frequently illustrated through a picture in upper elementary and middle school textbooks. In a very short period of time, through cell division, one unicellular organism, such as a bacterium, can become hundreds of bacteria. Cell division, called fission in high school textbooks, is a form of reproduction. This activity works best for students who are comfortable with the texture of play dough or clay, and can estimate quantities tactually.



This activity requires very little preparation and a brief period of time.


  1. Given a single ball of clay representing a single celled organism, the student divides the clay into two equal pieces.
  2. The student continues dividing each piece of clay into two pieces, yielding 4 pieces or “cells”.
  3. Then each of those 4 pieces is divided, yielding 8 “cells”.
  4. Then each of the 8 cells can be divided, creating 16 “cells”.
  5. At this point the clay cells will cover much of the tray, illustrating how one unicellular organism can multiply.
  6. Important teaching points include that each cell usually grows to the size of the original cell before dividing, something that can not be replicated with play dough.

NGSS Standards

LS1.A: Structure and Function

cell division collage

By Kate Fraser

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