What Is Momentum?

Challenge students to use weight and velocity to determine the momentum of several bowling balls. In this printable, students interpret a diagram and complete sentences about momentum.
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Science (4,731)

Physics (644)

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FutureFit Extension Activities

Investigate: Going the Distance

Using a toy dump truck, gravel, a ramp (2x4) and textbooks, take students outside or to an unused hallway or classroom with tile floors to demonstrate the effect of mass on momentum.

First, construct a simple ramp using the 2x4 and textbooks. Send the empty dump truck down the ramp and measure how far it travels before it stops by itself. Use chalk or tape to mark the stopping point and measure the distance from the bottom of the ramp.

Next, fill the dump track halfway with gravel and repeat the measurement process. Finally, fill the dump truck full of gravel and measure the distance a final time.

Have the students graph the results. Ask students to explain the effect of mass on momentum.

To take the project one step further, place a few matchbox-style cars on the “road” the dump truck is traveling and observe the impact of the dump truck for all three masses. How can we apply this information in a highway safety scenario?

Get Real: Marble Momentum

Have students work in groups of three or four to investigate momentum. Using a ruler with a groove down the middle, a marble, three textbooks, an index card (folded down the middle, width-wise) and a piece of painter’s tape, demonstrate the effect of speed on momentum.

First, have students set up a simple ramp with the ruler and one text book. About 6 inches from the bottom of the ramp, place a strip of painter’s tape parallel with the textbook. Place the folded index card, like a tent, to the far side of the painter’s tape. Place the marble at the top of the ruler and let it go, allowing it to push the index card. Measure how far the index card was pushed away from the painter’s tape and record the results.

Next, repeat the process using two textbooks for the ramp. Finally, use all three textbooks and record the results.

What is the effect of speed on momentum? If the marble was a car, explain how speed is a factor in car accidents. How are speed and momentum changed in inclement weather conditions? Why? How could we set up a model to demonstrate and explore the effects of weather on highway safety?

Excerpted from

Concepts and Challenges of Physical Science
From Pearson's Concepts and Challenges Physical Science.

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