Body Mass Index (BMI) Lesson Plan

Instructor: Joanne Abramson

Joanne has taught middle school and high school science for more than ten years and has a master's degree in education.

Knowing what affects their BMI and how to calculate it is an important tool for helping students understand their own health. This lesson plan uses a video, group discussion and a hands-on activity to let students explore and calculate BMI.

Lesson Objectives

By the end of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Define the BMI or Body Mass Index
  • Describe what the BMI measures
  • Calculate a person's BMI


1 - 1.5 hours

Curriculum Standards


Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9-10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.


Follow precisely a complex multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks, attending to special cases or exceptions defined in the text.


Compare and contrast findings presented in a text to those from other sources (including their own experiments), noting when the findings support or contradict previous explanations or accounts.


  • Online news article about the obesity epidemic - preferably one with statistical data that can be graphed
  • Online image of a BMI distribution curve for the United States
  • Bathroom scales, 2 - 3
  • Calculators, 1 per pair of students
  • Yard sticks
  • Butcher paper
  • Thumb tacks or tape
  • Excel graphing tool (alternatively, you can create a bar graph on the white board)
  • Pencils
  • Lined paper


  • Before class, draw a chart on the board with the BMI categories and values as the heading for each column. Additionally, set up a few stations around the room where students can check their height and weight. Use a couple of bathroom scales to check weight and some butcher paper tacked to a wall with yard sticks to measure height.
  • Begin the lesson by projecting a recent online article about the obesity epidemic in the United States. Have students discuss their thoughts and current knowledge about the topic. Point out some of the percentages mentioned in the article (e.g., ''40% of U.S. adults are obese.'') Ask students if they know how a person's obesity level is calculated. Explain that in today's lesson they will be learning more about one of these calculations, the Body Mass Index.
  • Distribute calculators, pencils and lined paper and begin the video What is BMI? - Definition, Formula & Calculation. Pause at 1:40. Ask students the following discussion questions:
    • What does BMI stand for and what does it measure?
    • What two physical characteristics are used to calculate a person's BMI?
  • Return to the video, this time pausing at 4:18. Ask the following questions:
    • What are some circumstances when a person's BMI might not be an accurate measurement?
    • According to the video, if you know your height and weight in inches and pounds, which formula should you use to calculate your BMI?
  • Provide students with a couple of practice problems so they can try calculating a person's BMI. Ask them to find the BMI number and the category in which that number belongs. Ask students to share their results with the class.
  • Return to the video and watch it to the end. Ask the following questions:
    • What are some uses for BMI measurements?
    • Name some diseases associated with higher BMIs.
  • To check for understanding, project and complete the lesson quiz.

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