Carnival Rides

The Pathways Project is off to a fabulous start. Both the Physics by Design and Humanities by Design courses are hard at work on their projects, and (most of) the projects are great.

Yesterday the students presented their second projects in Physics by Design – a small carnival ride. Small carnival rides are rides like the Tilt-A-Whirl, Ferris Wheel, and Merry-Go-Round.

Each presentation is supposed to sell their ride to our fictional amusement park. So the groups started off by introducing their rides and talking about their designs. You can see one group’s design process  for their hover bumper cars below.


Some groups included a story for their rides or the history of their rides.


All groups created scale drawings of their rides within the first two weeks of this unit. Some groups created scale drawings using paper and pencil while others branched out on their own to create digital models using free online design software. The awesome thing was that as soon as one group began creating theirs online, six other groups of varied abilities created 3D models online as well. We did have a lot of groups switch between Imperial and Metric systems which was a little frustrating at times but I think they worked it out in the end.


Each group also created free body diagrams, labeling each of the forces being enacted on different parts of their ride.


Since the presentations were basically a sales pitch, their conclusions needed to include why they wanted their rides in the park. Many of the groups also included safety considerations without being explicitly instructed to do so.


My favorite thing about teaching this course so far is watching the students of different math levels interact with each other and grow at different paces. We have students who failed 8th grade math last year, students who are going to finish Algebra 2 in a semester, and everyone in between. During this unit we introduced the basic trig functions and some of the Algebra 1 students picked up on it immediately while some of the Geometry students are still struggling with understanding them. We had Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2 students being remediated on solving distance/velocity/time word problems while the other half of students (still Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2) went into solving systems of equations word problems using a variety of methods.

This is such a change of pace from the collaborative courses I have taught the past two years, even though this is still technically a collaborative class. There are still loads of classroom management issues, interpersonal issues among the students, and students who are struggling to keep up with the work, but overall this has so far been a success.

I am really excited to start roller coasters. The students are excited to start roller coasters. These next five and a half weeks will probably be long but I can’t wait for our next set of presentations!


A high school math teacher trying to help her students find the world and find math through math.

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