One of my Calculus students' favorite lessons is the one I do to introduce particle motion. It's actually an activity that I got several years ago at a training I went to at our regional educational service center. It's called "Moving on Down the Line".

I ask for volunteers, but I don't tell them what they're volunteering for. The first 5 volunteers get a secret instruction card that only they can look at. The next 6 volunteers get data collection cards. The last volunteer will be the timekeeper. If you have enough students in your class you can make two groups and repeat the process for the second group.

I borrow a really long tape measure from the track coach - the kind they use to measure the long jump and triple jump. We go out in the hallway and we roll out the tape measure. Mover one goes to the starting point indicated on their card. The timekeeper starts the timer and calls out the time as mover 1 follows the instructions on their card. The first time is just a practice one so that the data collectors can figure out about where they need to be in order to record their data. They measure where the movers back heel is at the times indicated on their card to the nearest foot. Once the data collectors get an idea of where they need to be, the mover repeats their walk and we record the data. We repeat this process for the other 4 movers.

We go back to the classroom and I give them the handouts where they will make tables and graphs for each mover. We have the data collectors call out their information for each mover so we can all fill our tables out together. Then the students create the graphs.

Once all of the graphs are made, we try and figure out what the secret instructions on each movers card was. I ask questions like:

Where did they start? How can you tell?

What direction(s) did they move? How can you tell?

Did they ever stand still? How can you tell?

Did they ever speed up? Slow down? How can you tell?

What was their displacement? Total distance traveled?

Which mover moved fastest? Slowest?

There are many other questions that naturally arise from the graphs, and it's interesting to see the kids come up with their own conclusions about the movement.

This activity leads right into the introduction to particle motion and all of the vocabulary associated with it.

There's an associated activity called "Moving with Technology" that uses a CBR/CBL and has the kids create graphs that meet certain criteria.

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