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published by the Physics Education Technology Project
written by Robert Kennedy
This is a Problem-Based Learning (PBL) exercise for conceptual physics, developed specifically to accompany the PhET simulation Projectile Motion. Learners take on the role of a military artillery officer with the task of explaining factors that affect the path of a projectile fired from a cannon. No math is introduced; rather, the lesson is intended as a beginning exploration of the variables that affect the trajectory, such as initial velocity, launch angle, mass, and shape of the projectile. This exercise asks students to investigate the motion both with and without air resistance.

See Related Materials for a link to the Projectile Motion simulation, which must be running to complete this activity.
Editor's Note: This activity would be a unique and effective way to introduce concepts relating to projectile motion without the math, to help students get grounding in factors influencing trajectory. It was developed for high school, but could easily be adapted to Grades 8-9.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Classical Mechanics
- Applications of Newton's Laws
- Motion in Two Dimensions
= Projectile Motion
- Newton's Second Law
= Force, Acceleration
Education Practices
- Active Learning
= Problem Solving
- Instructional Material Design
= Simulation
- High School
- Middle School
- Instructional Material
= Activity
= Problem/Problem Set
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Activity
- New teachers
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Access Rights:
Free access
© 2007 PHET; University of Colorado
Additional information is available.
2d motion, acceleration, air resistance, ballistic motion, drag, drag coefficient, gravity, interactive multimedia, kinematics, projectile motion
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created September 13, 2012 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
August 18, 2016 by Lyle Barbato
Last Update
when Cataloged:
August 22, 2008

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

4. The Physical Setting

4F. Motion
  • 9-12: 4F/H4. Whenever one thing exerts a force on another, an equal amount of force is exerted back on it.

9. The Mathematical World

9B. Symbolic Relationships
  • 6-8: 9B/M2. Rates of change can be computed from differences in magnitudes and vice versa.

11. Common Themes

11B. Models
  • 9-12: 11B/H1a. A mathematical model uses rules and relationships to describe and predict objects and events in the real world.

Common Core State Standards for Mathematics Alignments

Standards for Mathematical Practice (K-12)

MP.1 Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.

Common Core State Writing Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects 6—12

Text Types and Purposes (6-12)
  • 1. Write arguments focused on discipline-specific content. (WHST.6-8.1)
Production and Distribution of Writing (6-12)
  • WHST.6-8.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
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Record Link
AIP Format
R. Kennedy, (Physics Education Technology Project, Boulder, 2007), WWW Document, (https://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/2977).
R. Kennedy, PhET Teacher Activities: Projectile Motion Investigation, (Physics Education Technology Project, Boulder, 2007), <https://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/2977>.
APA Format
Kennedy, R. (2008, August 22). PhET Teacher Activities: Projectile Motion Investigation. Retrieved March 22, 2017, from Physics Education Technology Project: https://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/2977
Chicago Format
Kennedy, Robert. PhET Teacher Activities: Projectile Motion Investigation. Boulder: Physics Education Technology Project, August 22, 2008. https://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/2977 (accessed 22 March 2017).
MLA Format
Kennedy, Robert. PhET Teacher Activities: Projectile Motion Investigation. Boulder: Physics Education Technology Project, 2007. 22 Aug. 2008. 22 Mar. 2017 <https://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/2977>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Author = "Robert Kennedy", Title = {PhET Teacher Activities: Projectile Motion Investigation}, Publisher = {Physics Education Technology Project}, Volume = {2017}, Number = {22 March 2017}, Month = {August 22, 2008}, Year = {2007} }
Refer Export Format

%A Robert Kennedy
%T PhET Teacher Activities: Projectile Motion Investigation
%D August 22, 2008
%I Physics Education Technology Project
%C Boulder
%U https://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/2977
%O application/ms-word

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source
%A Kennedy, Robert
%D August 22, 2008
%T PhET Teacher Activities: Projectile Motion Investigation
%I Physics Education Technology Project
%V 2017
%N 22 March 2017
%8 August 22, 2008
%9 application/ms-word
%U https://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/2977

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PhET Teacher Activities: Projectile Motion Investigation:

Accompanies PhET Simulation: Projectile Motion

A link to the PhET simulation Projectile Motion, which must be running in order to complete this lesson.

relation by Caroline Hall

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