Reflection: Real World Applications Pushing the Pathfinder - Section 5: Students Analyze the Data


It is hit or miss on whether or not an accurate mass is found using this method. Conclusions are usually 50% off their mark. I don't mind the discrepancy as long as students include in their conclusion the reason for the differences. Usually it is because the force reading on the scale was not constant; if the force value is off then the mass calculations will be off as well. 

Some groups get lost in the details of the calculations, as there are usually several conversions that have to happen if an American pound scale is used or if they mistakes in calculations because their paper is not well organized.

This Student Work incorrectly identified the frictional force as being between the tires and the road, a very common mistake that I discuss with the class as a whole. The student pushing does not make the tires skid across the cement. Instead, it is the internal friction of the wheel bearings that is the resistance force here.

  Real World Applications: Student Work
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Pushing the Pathfinder

Unit 1: Forces in One Dimension
Lesson 9 of 11

Objective: Students use a bathroom scale and F=ma to determine the mass of my SUV.

Big Idea: The mass of an object can be determined by applying a net force to it and measuring its acceleration.

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