Sports in Physics:  Measuring Velocity in a Mini-Olympics

Marion T. Hill Disney Magnet School
1440 N. Marine Dr.
Chicago IL 60613


1. To demonstrate an understanding of the difference between speed, velocity,
and acceleration.
2. To compute velocity.
3. To compute acceleration.
4. To read and construct a line graph and a bar graph that show information
about velocities of sports activities.

Materials Needed:

(for each group)
Two stop watches, one meter stick or tape, roll of masking tape or chalk,
notebook paper, pen, calculator (optional)
(for teacher)
Five-minute video of Olympic competition, bulletin board with pictures of
multi-cultural sports activities, chalkboard for graphs or three pre-printed
graph poster boards, sports vocabulary in Spanish and English (sports-
deportes) (velocity-velocidad) (speedometer-cuentakilometros) (at full
speed-a toda velocidad) (Olympic-Olimpico)

Suggested Strategy:

1. Introduce topic with a five-minute video of Olympic events or with pictures
of a variety of sports.
2. Involve pupils in a discussion about motion. Ask what we usually notice
about motion: how fast something is moving and in what direction something
is moving.
3. Guide pupils in a question/answer session which leads them to define speed
(rate at which something moves), velocity (speed plus direction), and
acceleration (rate of change of velocity).
4. Explain formula for computing velocity (velocity=distance divided by time).
5. Explain formula for computing acceleration (acceleration=(V2 - V1) divided
by T2).
6. Divide the class into groups of four or five, distribute materials, assign
an area on a playground or in a gymnasium for competition.
7. Establish rules for performing at least 3 competitive events in which
velocity can be measured (running, walking, pushing a ping-pong ball with
your nose, riding a bicycle, crawling, etc.).
8. Give each group a chart for recording data (names of participants,
activities, distance covered, time). Decide on the unit of measure.
9. Have the pupils place all results on a master chart:
10. Transfer results from the master chart to a large chalkboard graph:
a. Let x = one activity
b. Let . = the second activity
c. Let o = the third activity, etc.
11. Have the pupils connect the lines of the line graph. Ask questions about
the results.
12. Have the pupils of each group compute the group average for each activity.
13. Transfer the group average for each activity to a bar graph.

V |
(Examples) Walk Run Ride Walk Run Ride
14. Re-explain the formula for computation of acceleration.
15. Have the groups return to the game area, perform one activity and compute
16. Transfer the group averages to another bar graph.
17. Lead the pupils in a discussion to summarize the results of the Mini-

Performance Assessment:

You and your friends are visiting a park for the day. On a small sign, you
read that park officials are offering a $100 prize to the person who can design
a one-hour mini-sports competition, complete with a description of the prizes to
be awarded to individuals or teams who reach the highest VELOCITIES.
You immediately decide to win the $100. In at least two paragraphs,
describe the activities, materials needed, method and unit of measure, distance
to be covered; and tell how you will plot the results.


1. Five points = A complete description, including each item listed
in the performance assessment
2. Four points = Partial description, with at least one activity, unit of
measure, time and/or distance, and one formula
3. Three points = Partial description, with at least one activity, unit
of measure, and one formula
4. Two points = Little or no description, with at least one activity
5. One point = Description unclear
6. Zero = No attempt
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