Uncorking Work Problems

David Drymiller Marie Sklodowska Curie Metro H.S.
4959 S. Archer Ave.
Chicago IL 60632
(312) 535-2120


To solve problems about work, using the formula work = rate x time.
To solve equations containing rational expressions.
To strengthen basic skills learned in Algebra.

Materials Needed:

A large clear plastic bottle with 3 different sized holes drilled
in the bottom
3 corks to fill the holes
A plastic storage crate
A plastic container that fits into the storage crate
A plastic funnel
A pliers
Rags to wipe up spills
Saran wrap
food coloring
colored strips of paper


The students perform the following demonstration for their classmates
under the direction of the classroom teacher. No prior knowledge of the
activity is needed by the students.

Have the students fill the bottle with water and place it on the crate.
Place the container in the crate to catch the water when the bottle is
drained. Place one colored strip of paper near the top of the bottle, but
below the water level. The other strip should be placed on the bottle near,
but not exactly at, the bottom. Add food coloring to the water to make the
event easier to see. Place a piece of Saran wrap on the top of the bottle
to form a seal. Using the pliers, remove the smallest cork. Remove the
Saran wrap and start the stopwatches when the water level reaches the top
of the first colored strip. Stop the stopwatches when the water level reaches
the top of the second colored strip. Recork and refill the bottle. Record
the time it takes to empty the bottle using the smallest hole. (I got 127
Again drain the bottle as before but pull the middle sized cork and record
the results. (I got 65 seconds.)
Now ask the question, "How long does it take to drain the bottle if both
the smallest and middle sized corks are pulled?"

The formula, Work = Rate x Time is introduced and our discussion leads to
the following chart, equation and prediction for the time.

Rate x Time = Work
Smallest Hole 1/127 127 1
Middle Size 1/65 65 1
Both Together 1/t t 1

1/127 + 1/65 = 1/t
65t + 127t = 65(127)
270t = 65(127)
t = 43 sec.

Again drain the bottle by pulling both the small and middle sized corks
and record the result. (I got 43 seconds---Perfection!)

A variation of the above can be obtained by first draining the bottle by
uncorking the middle and largest holes and predicting the time needed to drain
the bottle using just the largest hole. Here some error might appear in the
timing of the event.

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