Saturday, March 10, 2018

RC Car Lab for Slope

This year, I have been experimenting with math labs for my students. I saw students learning math concepts in their science class, so excited about labs and how they were collecting and analyzing real data. I knew I wanted that for them in my math classroom as well. Science can't have all the fun!

Helping students understand slope is a big deal in 8th grade. The idea of rate of change requires a depth of understanding well beyond "rise over run." In order to help students better understand the concept, they need to be given real-world opportunities to connect the abstract concept of slope with physical situations. Cue the RC Car Math Lab! 

I started the lab by showing them the cars and asking how we could determine how fast they would go. They had learned about speed in science {because that's how science and math play together} so they were able to determine the variables. I explained how they were going to collect the data with stopwatches at different intervals. I fudged the numbers for distance a tiny bit so it would be somewhat linear but don't tell my students! 

You can see the team above with all of their stopwatches ready to get the time when the car crosses their line. One team leader made me laugh because he made his group give their times in order of distance. They could not just call out their times willy nilly. He was very adamant about this!

One of the challenges with this lab was finding a driver! Not everyone could drive the cars straight to get good data. After the first class, I let them have a few minutes to all play within their groups and decide who would drive. The trials ran much better by doing this. 

Each group did three trials and then we came back inside to analyze the data. Once the speed of the RC car was determined, students were tasked with finding how long it would take to get to the beach in the little car. 

This lab gives us another experience that can be referenced when we talk about slope intercept form in different contexts later on. And students had a super fun day in math lab!

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