Students Start Your Engines: Using Toy Cars to Calculate Velocity

By Stacey Burt on December 2, 2009

This time of year everyone loves toys, and 6th grade students are no exception. In this simple introduction to calculating rate (velocity and speed in particular) students make the connection utilizing toy cars.


Over the years I have accumulated a number of various toy cars for use in science and math classes. Even those students with the most discriminating taste find one or two models that strike their fancy. I have used them for introducing everything from potential and kinetic energy to slope. They are especially useful when introducing speed calculations.


For this math lesson I allow the groups of students to choose three different types of cars to test. The groups determine the distance that each car will travel. They are provided stopwatches and painter’s tape for the floor. I had the students complete three trials with each car. After the data was collected in their math journals, the students calculated speed for each trial. Later they went on to calculate the measures of central tendency for each car as a review.


I find that this very basic math lab allows students to understand that rate calculations are simply comparing two different units in relationship to one another, like feet and seconds. It seems to make more sense once they have the hands-on experience with the toy cars, and makes other rate calculations much simpler. I am sure many of you have used toys in the classroom and I would love for you to share your lesson ideas with us for either math or science lesson ideas.


I have some great pictures of the lab we completed yesterday; however, I am having some issues downloading the images from my phone to my computer (ah, technology). I will post them as soon as I work out the kinks. As always, thanks for stopping by this week and please check back for pictures of my students in action.

Cheers,

Stacey

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