Academy Curricular Exchange
Columbia Education Center 




OVERVIEW:  Students from the middle grades are ready to
begin experimentation as a method for solving problems.
This activity will have them identify variables, and
test a variable for its effect on moving a marble.

PURPOSE:  To involve students in identifying variables
and planning experiments to test the effect of a

OBJECTIVES:  As a result of this activity, the students
1.  OBSERVE marbles rolling down a ramp.
2.  IDENTIFY VARIABLES that could be causing the
    marble to roll faster or farther.
3.  TEST changing one variable to see what results
    it will have.
4.  RECORD appropriate data.
5.  ANALYZE the data to make a concluding statement
    about the changed variable.

1.   Introduction
     This activity could be introduced at the beginning
     of a unit on movement or as a part of an ongoing
     unit on how technology advances.

     Demonstrate a marble rolling down a ramp.  Ask the
     students to make observations.  Discuss what could
     make the marble roll faster? farther?  List all
     possible variables.  Decide on one variable to
     test, and make a prediction as to the results of
     that one change.

     Discuss what measurement would be appropriate for
     the situation and tools available.  In an
     elementary classroom and considering the small
     amount of time it takes a marble to roll down a
     ramp, measuring how far the marble goes is more

2.   Small group experiment --The following form can be
     generated by the students or given to them with
     any or all parts as places to "fill-in", depending
     on your emphasis.


PLAN:  We want to see how far a marble will roll after
coming down a ramp.  We will try to change the height
of the ramp to make it roll faster.

        CONSTANTS                   VARIABLE
     size of marble
     weight of marble            height of ramp
     same ramp surface

RESOURCES/MATERIALS:  10 books (each about 1 cm.
thick), meterstick, marble, ramp (made of a cardboard
tube form wrapping paper.  (Materials for the
experiment as listed, with enough for each small

1.  Set up the ramp with 4 books on a flat surface.
2.  Hold the marble at the top of the ramp and let
    it roll.
3.  Use the meterstick to measure how far the marble
    rolls from the end of the ramp.
4.  Record your results.
5.  Raise the ramp to 7 books and repeat steps
6.  Raise the ramp to 10 books and repeat steps

    _ramp______l_trial# 1__l_trial #2__l__trial #3_l
    _4 books___l___________l___________l___________l
    _7 books __l___________l___________l___________l
    _10 books__l___________l___________l___________l

CONCLUSION:  __( The greater incline of the higher will
cause the marble to roll faster, unless the incline
becomes so steep that the smooth roll of the marble is
interrupted) ____________________________

TYING IT ALL TOGETHER  This provides a good basis of
understanding for further studies of motion.
Interaction is a basic science concept. Students should
become aware of interactions and the causes/ effects of
those interactions.

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