Launching Data: Hands-on fun with RTD and Averages

Those of you who follow this blog know that I am always looking for ways to take math off the paper and into action.  This lesson includes rate-time-distance, averages and graphing.  And even better - parachutes!

Step 1:  Build Parachutes

Have the students build parachutes from various materials such as plastic bags, coffee filters, ribbon and string.  You will also need tape potentially and some weights.  We used figurines but you could use washers or paperclips.  A balloon slightly filled with water tied to the bottom of the parachute is also a good weight.

Some of the kids got really into this part not only looking at the design but also making the parachutes attractive with extra ribbons.

Step 2: Time to Launch

Launch the parachutes.  You will need parachutes, a data chart, a stopwatch, and a high, safe place.  We stood at the top of a stairwell.  Students worked in partners to time and record three trials.  You can do more if you have time, which allows more data to work with later on.  Students recorded the time of each launch.

We measured the height of the stairwell.

Step 3: Rate-Time-Distance

Students took the data back to calculate the speed of each descent.  Students had seen rate times time equal distance before, so they were able to easily apply it here.

Step 4: Data Analysis

Students can take it one step further by collecting the mean for their own data, and then you can do mean-median-mode for class data as well.  We also graphed the data.

The lesson was a big hit and brought concepts that we often talk about to life.