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Published by Cassie Peterson
This is an introductory lesson to pendulums and graphing.
This is an introductory lesson to pendulums and graphing.

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Published by: Cassie Peterson on Apr 29, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Pendulum LessonGrade Level:
Any with modifications
Learning Outcomes:
Students will be able to understand that math can be used to find patterns.
Students will be able to determine if patterns are linear or not
Students will be able to use those patterns to accurately predict outcomes
A sub outcome here is that students will learn to recognize the shapes of graphs/patterns to help them determine which graphing technique holds the most
promise for finding a “straight line.”
And determine what those patterns are algebraically
5 to 10 washers
 Key Question:
What pattern can we find between the pendulum’s period and other variables.
 Below is the traditional format for an inquiry-based lesson based on
The Learning Cycle.
Hold up the pendulum for everyone to see. Put the pendulum in motion and ask students 1) What do
they notice about the pendulum’s motion (lead them to the idea that the motion repeats)? and 2) What
can they measure? What are the variables?
Give no instructions to the students, but set a time limit and let them go at it. Monitor the students asthey design their experiments. Are they only changing one variable at a time? How are they measuringthe period (it is easiest to let the pendulum repeat the motion several times and divide it by the numberof motions).Also encourage the students to not just take data but do it purposefully. So, if you want to see if themass matters then do a big mass and a small mass. I
f the period doesn’t change, it is probably safe tosay that mass doesn’t matter. This saves time and then they can move on to a different variable. If the
period does change, then they can go back and measure the period for the masses that they skipped.
Explain and Elaborate:
These two are sort of combined in one because students will need some guidance to get to the
idea that this is not a straight line “fit” or “pattern.” Come back after the time limit and discuss
the following:2.
What are the
variables that affect the pendulum’s period? How do they know?
After students have experimented and “found” the variable that effects the period of a
pendulum, have them go online to the PhET Colorado site and play around with the pendulumand change the variables to see what happens to the period of the pendulum.http://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/pendulum-lab Give them the challenge problem: What is the period of pendulum that is 2 m long? Have them describetheir reasoning that they use to get their prediction. Two important notes:4.
First: make sure that the strings they have are a length that is at least two times smaller thanwhat the Challenge question is asking for. This way,
they can’t test the answer before making a
Second: Many of them may think that this “curve” is really a straight line. It does look straight if they haven’t taken too many data points yet. The upshot of this is that they will make
predictions that are way too big for the period of a pendulum of two meters. That is good.6.
Have students report their predictions with their reasons.7.
Set up a pendulum that is two meters in length and measure its period; compare to studentpredictions8.
Now students should feel a sense of disequilibrium since they cannot accurately period theperiod. Give them some guidance here:
Use a previous example for data that they collected and the pattern was a straight line.Suppose that is a volume displacement verses number of marbles added graph. Say to
the students, “remember back to the prediction that you made for the number of 
marbles needed to cause water to spill out of the graduated cylinder. Why were you
able to make that prediction?” Hopefully students will s
ay that because the pattern waslinear or something similar to that.
The upshot here is that we want to find a “linear” pattern from a curved one (which is
what the pendulum is). But how? You will need to give them guidance.
Try plotting or making a table of T² verses L, or T verses L², or 1/T versus L, etc.This should be done using Microsoft Excel so that students can not onlygenerate charts, but also create accurate.
Have students continue this until they find a linear pattern. This will showstudents an accurate prediction and allow them to find the model.
Once they find the pattern that is linear, have them use it to predict the 2 meter
pendulum’s period. This should be fairly accurate. The period should be around 2.8

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