Month: November 2017

Calculating Speed Activity

Need to practice calculating speed in your classroom? How about using toys?

My students had recently learned the formula for calculating speed. We had completed several practice problems and I knew my students could do the math on paper. However, finding and comparing speeds in real life is much more fun! I thought about using marbles and rolling them down ramps, but that has been done – not very exciting. After another quick online search, I got the idea to calculate the speeds of different toys that could move by themselves. Loved it!

Because I happen to have an almost three year old boy in the house, I knew I could come up with several self-propelled toys. After talking my son into letting me borrow a few toys for the day, he helped me grab the following:

  • Thomas the Train
  • Percy the Train
  • A Shark Airplane
  • A Big Red Car
  • A Little Red Car
  • I also had this lovely wind up toy already in my classroom, which I tell the students is me in my bumper car!

Some of these toys were pull back, others had buttons to turn them on and off. Both worked well!

The other materials needed were:
  • Metersticks
  • Stopwatches
  • Optional tape for start and stop lines
Procedure

First, I placed students in groups of three or four. Each group would get one toy to test at a time and we would rotate the toys. I made sure that each group tested at least 4 toys total.

Once a group received their toy, they had to decided if they wanted to measure the toy for a certain distance, or just until it stopped. Students then timed their toys and measured the distance the toy traveled for that time. With this data, they calculated the speeds of each toy.

Once students had completed four toys, we came back together as a group and compared the speeds. Groups shared their slowest toys. Since not everyone tested every toy, we then compared the actual speeds of each to determine which one was truly the slowest. The bumper car wind up toy definitely took its time! Although there were a few different ideas on which was the fastest toy, most concluded that the Big Red Car won! A few had the Little Red Car at higher speeds. Some believed this was because it was pulled back extra far for these tests!

The fastest toy!

Students had a great time testing each of the toys! And I had a great time watching them comparing the speeds and doing the calculations correctly!

Quick Momentum Demos

I’ve got a couple quick demos that are great for demonstrating momentum in the classroom. These take very little time to set up, but can still be very effective in showing how momentum is conserved throughout a system!

The conservation of momentum states that the total momentum before a collision occurs is equal to the total momentum after the collision, as long as no outside forces are interfering. In the classroom, we discussed how this applies to car crashes and similar events. However, I did not want my students to actually be crashing cars in order to understand these concepts! So these are two simple activities students can perform on their own in order to grasp the concept further!

Here is what you need:

  • Ruler (should be a solid wood or plastic one. Super thin rulers will not work well).
  • A Dime
  • A Quarter
  • 2 meter sticks
  • 5 marbles

Coins and Ruler

To set up these demonstration, you need to place the ruler on a flat surface with the dime placed right at the edge of the ruler. Place the quarter at the other end of the ruler, however, slide it back and “shoot” it toward the ruler so it hits the end with force. The momentum should cause the dime at the opposite end to move away from the ruler. The more force used with the quarter, the farther the dime will go!

Next, have students try it the opposite way. If you place the quarter on the edge and try to slide the dime into the ruler, the quarter may move, but not very far. Why? Because the quarter is more massive and will not travel as far of a distance. Newton’s 2nd law explains this through the equation force = mass x acceleration.

 

If you want to take it a step even further, you can have students calculate the mass of each coin and the distance they travel. Their ratios should be equal!

Newton’s Meter stick Cradle

The next demonstration uses the meter sticks and the marbles. Placing the two meter sticks side by side on a flat surface, you can create a small space opening as a “track” for the marbles. Start with resting two marbles next to each other on this track. Roll a third marble towards the two, and watch what happens! When the marbles hit, the collision causes the outside marble to roll away. If you place three marbles on the track and roll two towards them, two of the originally resting marbles will roll away. This is very similar to watching a Newton’s Cradle in action. Students can experiment with rolling different numbers of marbles and watching what happens. The total momentum will always be conserved – how every many marbles are rolled, that is how many of the resting marbles will begin moving! Newton’s 3rd law states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Students will see that clearly here!

These two quick and easy demos should take no time to set up and students still love them! Quick, easy, but still great at explaining the concept of momentum!

Pumpkin Party

   A couple of weeks ago, my little baby girl turned one year old. How did that happen so fast? I feel like I was just snuggling her in the hospital, and all of a sudden I had a birthday party to plan!

Baby girl’s birthday is at the end of October, so I decided a pumpkin theme would be perfect (and easy)! Apparently many others think so too because there were so many ideas online that it was hard to narrow down what I wanted for our party. We don’t have a huge budget for party planning, so my goal is to keep things simple and fun and do as much as I can on my own.

Invitations

One of the first things needed is the invitation. I’m usually all about making cards or creating a digital version by myself. This year, I knew if I wanted anybody to actually get an invitation, I had to buy them! Fortunately, there were so many online options that I just had to pick one! I ordered these from SugarPink Designs on Etsy. They personalized it and I just had to print. I loved how they turned out! My order even came with little personalized toppers for the cupcakes. Super cute!

Decorations

Decorations turned out to be pretty easy as well. I bought a few large pumpkins that I planned to carve with the kids after the party, as well as several small ones to place at tables. My  parents had grown a few in their garden and graciously brought those as well. Pink and orange seemed to jump out as appropriate color for a girl’s pumpkin party. I also included white and green for accents and contrast.

Activities

I like to have at least one activity for the kids to participate in. When my son turned one, he had a ball themed party with a mini ball pit! We decided to include this again since it was a hit with the extra little ones. For the slightly older kids, I included a pumpkin painting table. I bought many small pumpkins and a guest could pick one and choose to paint it and take it home! Even adults participated in this, which was fun to see! For the biggest kids (adults) we used a pumpkin trivia that I found here.  I probably should have checked out the answers before handing it out though, because we found a few incorrect answers! Be careful for those fact-checkers that will get you!

Food

The most important part of hosting a good party (in my opinion) is making sure there is food available! We did a little chili bar with two types of chili – beef chili and Grand Rapids White Bean Chicken Chili and had all the fixins to put on top.

We also served the following:

For dessert, we had a smash cake that I had decorated (I was a little rushed for time with this one, so the icing did not turn out as I had planned. My daughter did not seem to mind though!)

I also made:

Overall, the party was a success. As I was cleaning up afterwards, I thought, “This is truly a lot of work for a one year old that won’t remember anything about it!” But honestly, they party is not just celebrating her life. It is celebrating the family and friends who have helped raise our little girl and will continue to stand by us in the years to come!

Percent Change Race!

 I am always looking for math activities that take minimal prep time yet still are engaging and useful for my students. Recently, my 7th grade math students studied percent change. After a day of learning how to set up these types of problems and do the math, I wanted something more exciting to get students to understand more meaning behind the numbers. Luckily, I stumbled upon this from Hands on Math and instantly knew it would be perfect! Students would “race” themselves to see the percent change difference between running on two feet and running on one foot.

The day I planned to do this activity with my students, it was cold and drizzling on and off outside. I asked my students if they were still interested, and they all said “YES!” So, we ventured out into the chilly, wet world and raced ourselves!

I partnered up the students and gave each pair a stopwatch. The school’s drive through area was the perfect place to race because we already had large

Our racing lane

orange cones set up (we don’t have buses so this is where students get dropped off and picked up).  I simply showed students where our start line and end line were (about 40-50 meters apart) and then had students start racing! One person stood at the finish line and timed their partner. The first runner ran on two feet and recorded the time it took to do so. This would be the “original” time. Then, they went back and tried to run/hop on one foot. This time would be the changed time. After a student was done with both races, the partners switched.

We did not have even numbers in class, so I ended up being partnered with one of the students. I will say, I was pretty quick on the two feet race, but terribly at racing on one foot. I was probably the slowest person! However, the neat thing about this activity is students didn’t get very self conscious, because they were not really racing each other. The only other person that knew their time was their partner. There was a little bit of competition between partners, but overall, students really were competitive against themselves!

After we had all raced, we went inside to calculate the percent of change. We briefly discussed whether we had a percent increase or decrease of time. Every person’s time got slower (took more time) and so we agreed that everyone had a percent increase. Next, students had to compare their percent of change. Some students had times that were not too far from each other, and so their percent of change was lower than others. I am proud to say that my percent increase was the largest of the entire class – I had 189% increase in times! I need to work on my one leg running skills…

All you need for this activity is:

  • Worksheet to record times
  • Stopwatch
  • Something to mark start and finish lines

Instructions:

  1. Mark out a starting line and a finish line
  2. Have on student from each partner pair ready at the finish line. Their partner is at the start.
  3. Students time how long it takes their partners to run the distance on two feet and record the time.
  4. They repeat this, except the runner now must “run” (hop) the same course on one foot.
  5. The runner and the timer switch places and repeat steps 3 and 4
  6. Partners record all times then work together to calculate the percent change between the races.
  7. Compare and discuss the percent of change they find!

Have fun running!