Summer Research Program for Science Teachers

Peter Torpie

M.S. 54, Manhattan



Understanding of the Speed and Acceleration Formulas

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Purpose:        To reinforce the students’ understanding of the speed and acceleration formulas, and introduce friction.


Motivation:     Fabulous prizes will be awarded to the team whose car finishes last.


Equipment:   Each team will receive one force car, a meter stick, a stopwatch, and a plank one meter long. [Teaching Standard D- Make accessible science tools]


Procedure:             1.  Introduce the class to the concepts and formulas to be studied (one period).

                                2.  Distribute equipment.

                                3.  Give the class two periods to devise a technique to slow the car down as much  as possible, without stopping it. [Teaching Standard E- Structure and facilitate informal discussion] [5-8 Content Standard E- Abilities of technological design]

                                4.  On the day of the contest, each group will run the race three times;  the average of the results will be used in the judging.


Rules:                     1.  The wheels of the car cannot be altered in any way.

                                2.  The weight of the car must carry it the length of the ramp, and then one meter   more.  If it does not finish, it is disqualified.

                                3.  The average speed of the car on the ramp, along the ground, and overall, must be calculated using the formula:


                                                                                speed  =  distance  divided by  time


                                4.  Acceleration for each trial must be calculated using the formula:


                                                                acceleration  =   final speed  -  original speed

                                                                                                                total time

  [5-8 Content Standard B- Motions and forces]

                                5.  No group member may touch a car once it is in motion.

                                6.  The three slowest teams will receive fabulous prizes.  The fastest team will receive a speeding ticket.


                                Suggested fabulous prizes:  points on test, or a piece of candy.  Allow the student to choose.


                                                                                 Suggested Data Format


  Speed of car on ramp Speed of car on floor Average speed overall Acceleration
Trial 1        
Trial 2        
Trial 3        


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