Education Technology

How Far Will It Go

Published on 07/29/2007

Activity Overview

Students measure and record the total distance traveled by their individual moustrap racers. Using TI-Navigator the individual data is collected and aggregated. The aggregated class data is then sent to the individual student calculcators and students investigate histograms and box plots.

Before the Activity

Students become familiar with collecting and analyzing single variable data, and creating distribution histograms and box plots. This activity is intended for the Algebra 1 classroom, but can be adapted to higher grade levels by increasing the amount and depth of the data analysis. Once constructed, the mousetrap car provides an extensive array of investigative math and physics activities which can be incorporated into lessons throughout the school year. By first constructing their own mousetrap racer, students take ownership of the activities and collected data. Depending on resources and time, students can be assigned to collaborative groups or work independently with individual mousetrap racers. This activity uses mousetrap cars which the students have already constructed either at home or during a previous class period. All students should have the same type of mousetrap car. Additional information on the operation and construction of a mousetrap car, and an inexpensive ?ready to assemble? car that can be used for this activity is the Little Moe Racer available at http://www.docfizzix.com/. Bulk supplies from which mousetrap cars can be built are also available at hobby and hardware outlets.

During the Activity

Working in pairs students launch their mousetrap cars from a common starting point and then both measure and record the total distance traveled. In general, the distance traveled will depend on the 'road surface'. The cars will travel farther on linoleum or other hard surface floors than they will on carpeted floors. On a hard surface floor the 'Little Moe Racer' can easily travel in excess of 50 feet; while on a carpeted floor distances of 20-30 feet are more typical. In this activity TI-Navigator is used to aggregate student data, take screen captures to check progress as well as understanding, and to display the histograms and box plots produced by the students.

After the Activity

Have students discuss sources of error in the data collection process. Prompt students with probes such as: What factors made some of the cars go farther than others? What factors caused the car to stop when it did? What are the possible sources of friction?