In this activity, learners use a hand-made protractor to measure angles they find in playground equipment. Learners will observe that angle measurements do not change with distance, because they are distance invariant, or constant. Note: The "Pocket Protractor" activity should be done ahead as a separate activity (see related resource), but a standard protractor can be used as a substitute.
This trick from Exploratorium physicist Paul Doherty lets you add together the bounces of two balls and send one ball flying. When we tried this trick on the Exploratorium's exhibit floor, we gathered a crowd of visitors who wanted to know what we were doing. We explained that we were engaged in serious scientific experimentation related to energy transfer. Some of them may have believed us. If you'd like to go into the physical calculations of this phenomenam, see the related resource "Bouncing Balls" - it's the same activity but with the math explained.
In this optics/mathematics activity, learners use two hinged mirrors to create a kaleidoscope that shows multiple images of an object. Learners discover that the number of images reflected in the mirrors depends on the angle between the mirrors. Learners also observe that when they set the hinged mirrors on top of a third mirror, they create a reflector that always sends light back in the direction from which it came. Use this activity to introduce basic principles of light and optics including angle of reflection and angle of incidence.
The Drawing Board consists of a marking pen that remains stationary and a platform that swings beneath the pen, acting as a pendulum. As the platform swings, the pen marks a sheet of paper that is fastened to the platform, generating beautiful repetitive patterns. These colorful designs contain hidden lessons in physics. This resource includes instructions for making a large-scale Drawing Board as well.
In this activity, learners use pattern blocks and mirrors to explore symmetry. Learners work in pairs and build mirror images of each other's designs. In doing so, learners will examine principles of symmetry and reflection.
In this activity, learners use their hands as tools for indirect measurement. Learners explore how to use ratios to calculate the approximate height of something that can't be measured directly by first measuring something that can be directly measured. This activity can also be used to explain how scientists use indirect measurement to determine distances between things in the universe that are too far away, too large or too small to measure directly (i.e. diameter of the moon or number of bacteria in a volume of liquid).
In this activity, learners slide shapes to create unusual tiled patterns. Learners transform a rectangle into a more interesting shape and then make a tessellation by repeating that shape over and over again. Learners will also calculate the area of a rectangle. This activity works best as a "centers" activity.
In this math activity, learners observe and sketch cracking patterns in pavement. Learners use a protractor to measure and label the angles of their sketches and conclude if some angles are more common than others.
In this activity, learners create angle-measuring devices--protractors--out of paper. Learners follow a series of steps to fold a square sheet of paper into a triangular Pocket Protractor. Learners will practice measuring and identifying the angles of a triangle.
In this activity, learners explore scale by using building cubes to see how changing the length, width, and height of a three-dimensional object affects its surface area and its volume. Learners build bigger and bigger cubes to understand these scaling relationships.
In this activity, learners use their feet to estimate distances. Learners calculate the distance of one step in centimeters by measuring 10 steps at a time to reduce measurement error. Learners can use their stride ruler to measure the distance between different points on the playground as an extension activity.
In this activity, learners walk the sides and interior angles of various polygons drawn on the playground. As they do so, learners practice rotating clockwise 180 and 360 degrees. Learners discover there is a pattern to the sum of the interior angles of any polygon.
Did you know that you would be a different age if you lived on Mars? It's true! In this activity, you'll learn about the different rotation and revolution periods of each of the planets and calculate your age respectively. Included is an astronomy history lesson and explanation of Kepler's Laws of Orbital Motion. The activity has a calculator built into the web page, but the activity can be made more math intensive by using the given data to calculate the learner's age by hand.