This video lesson is an example of "teaching for understanding" in lieu of providing students with formulas for determining the height of a dropped (or projected) object at any time during its fall. The concept presented here of creating a chart to organize and analyze data collected in a simple experiment is broadly useful. During the classroom breaks in this video, students will enjoy timing objects in free fall and balls rolling down ramps as a way of learning how to carefully conduct experiments and analyze the results. The beauty of this lesson is the simplicity of using only the time it takes for an object dropped from a measured height to strike the ground. There are no math prerequisites for this lesson and no needed supplies, other than a blackboard and chalk. It can be completed in one 50-60-minute classroom period.
John has taught mathematics for 25 years at the high school level, in and around Boston. He has been published in the ATMIM newsletter (www.atmim.net) and has presented the Free Fall lesson at an ATMIM conference.
Additional Online Resources
A lesson with animation on Free Fall from The Physics Classroom website.
An interactive JAVA applet on Free Fall from the University of Oregon Department of Physics.
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