Reflection: Developing a Conceptual Understanding Newton's 2nd Law: Balloon Racers - Newton's Law Expo (6 of 9) - Section 3: Student Activity


The best strategy for teaching Newton's 2nd Law that I have found, is to focus on the relationship between force (F), mass (M), and acceleration (a); which can be expressed as the formula F=ma or force (F) equals mass (m) times acceleration(a). In other words the force placed on an object is based on the object's mass and the rate of speed it is traveling.

In the prior lesson Newton's 2nd Law Demonstration, the students built a variable strip. This allows them to manipulate the three variables contained within Newton's 2nd Law.


To build, cut three holes (about the size of a quarter) at each end and in the middle of a sentence strip. Label each hole as mass, force, and acceleration (in that order). A student can then insert their finger into the hole representing the variable they wish to remain constant. By placing their finger in the other hole they can raise or lower that value and the third variable reacts accordingly (either high or lower). So if force remains constant, an increase in acceleration requires a decrease in mass. In Newton's 2nd Law Demonstration each student must present their variable strip to their elbow partner and explain how the three variables interact.

  How to teach Newton's 2nd Law
  Developing a Conceptual Understanding: How to teach Newton's 2nd Law
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Newton's 2nd Law: Balloon Racers - Newton's Law Expo (6 of 9)

Unit 6: Forces
Lesson 6 of 12

Objective: Students will be able to test Newton's 2nd Law of Motion using a balloon race.

Big Idea: A weighted balloon will race an unweighted balloon to demonstrate proof of Newton's 2nd Law.

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6 balloon racer
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