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Conceptual Physics: Impulse and Momentum Units

This topic presents the physics of impulse and momentum along with lesson plans, activities, reference and content materials. Units are not listed in a prescribed order.

  Teaching about Impulse and Momentum (6)

Lesson Plans:

This PTRA manual presents the physics of impulse and momentum and learning materials.  The manual also includes a section on modern physics applications and a set of assessment materials.

Item Type: Instructor's Guide
Level: High School Physics

Activities:

In this high school physics tutorial, the impulse-momentum change theorem and the law of conservation of momentum are explored.

Item Type: Interactive Tutorial
Level: Grades 9-12

This applet features two wagons which can undergo a collision that is either totally elastic or totally inelastic. The simulation is complex enough to allow users to set mass and initial velocity, but simple enough to promote student understanding of physical interactions in colliding systems.

Item Type: Interactive Simulation
Level: Grades 7-12
Duration: 20-30 minutes

Lots of factors are at play in a simple collision. This resource will help your students build understanding the of following:  1) How to apply the law of momentum conservation, 2) Total energy in a closed system (it's always conserved, but in collisions, kinetic energy is generally transformed into other forms of energy), 3) In special cases (perfectly elastic collisions) the kinetic energy stays the same before and after a collision, 4) In completely inelastic collisions, objects stick together, 5) momentum is a vector.

Item Type: Interactive Simulation
Level: Grades 8-12
Duration: One class period

Content Support For Teachers:

In this 2001 paper presented at the Physics Education Research Conference, authors describe the effects of two teaching approaches in a classroom lab on momentum:  microcomputer-based labs (MBR) and video-based labs (VBR).  Results indicate that students made good use of the information in the lab, and that they spent more time talking about concepts involving conservation of momentum and energy.

Item Type: Reference Material
Level: Grades 6-12

Assessment:

This high-school-level assessment gauges student understanding of using diagrams to predict outcomes in colliding systems.   It is intended for use in a unit on the conservation of linear momentum.  The  student assessment is printable, and an answer key is included.

Item Type: Assessment/Quiz
Level: High School Physics

  Practical Examples for Impulse and Momentum (3)

Activities:

This entertaining mini-lesson developed by Exploratorium engages the learner in physical activity to explore the effects of a twisting force (torque) on rotational motion.  By mimicking the motion of a skateboarder, students gain intuitive understanding of the law of conservation of angular momentum.

Item Type: Activity
Level: Grades 8-12

This inquiry-based activity challenges students to apply their understanding of momentum and collision to determine who is at fault in an automobile accident.  It would be especially appropriate for cooperative learning groups.

Item Type: Problem-Based Learning
Level: Grades 10-12

Content Support For Teachers:

This PTRA manual presents the physics of impulse and momentum and learning materials to help students with this topic. Samples from the full print manual are available here. In this book, a section on theory and applications is followed by laboratory, classroom, and computer activities. The manual also includes a section on modern physics applications of the topic. Assessment questions are also provided for use by instructors.

Item Type: Instructor's Guide
Level: Grades 9-12

  Collisions (3)

Lesson Plans:

Auto collisions offer a concrete way to think about conservation of linear momentum.  In this PBL activity, students must figure out who is at fault in a T-bone collision, given little more than the angle of impact, size of the dent, and the extent of seat-belt laceration injuries of one driver.  The student guide may be freely accessed; registration is required to download the teacher's guide with lesson plan.

Item Type: Problem-Based Lesson
Level: High School Physics
Duration: Two Class Periods

Activities:

This inquiry-based activity challenges students to apply their understanding of momentum and collision to determine who is at fault in an automobile accident.

Item Type: Problem-Based Learning
Level: High School Physics

This simulation is a good starting point for learning about collision, as students observe two particles move and collide in one dimension.  The collision is elastic -- caused by a virtual spring.  Students can set starting velocities and spring constant, then view graphs of momentum and kinetic energy alongside the simulation. Editor's Note In the middle school classroom, this item could also serve well as a teacher-led demonstration, with students predicting the motion and graph changes as velocity and spring constant are changed.

Item Type: Interactive Simulation
Level: Grades 8-12