Saturday, 13 October 2012

Don't let the maths stop you from doing the physics! Speed and other physics formulas untangled

Our unit was on Physics is Sport (perfect timing with London Olympics and the Paralympics!). We were working with formulas, such as the speed formula:
Having taught both Year 10 Science and Year 10 Mainstream Maths course, I was well aware of the variety of maths skills in y classroom. Usually maths isn't too much of a hurdle in science - but with rearranging and substituting values into formula I thought this might be one of those cases.
What could I give these kids who were getting tangles in the maths a straight forward method?
The speed equation can be translated into a triangle:

Use your finger to cover up what you are trying to find, which shows you what you must do to calculate it. This can be seen below.
Image from here
Students received this alternative really well and were grateful I understood their difficulty with maths. They too in the end believed my motto of "Don't let the maths stop you from going the physics!" :)
This was subsequently used for other equations in physics like acceleration and velocity. In mathematics this can be applied to the Trigonometric Ratios.

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