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published by the Collegial Centre for Educational Materials Development
written by Camil Cyr
Available Languages: English, French
This item is a PBL (Problem-Based Learning) activity for introductory physics relating to conservation of momentum, frictional force, and kinetic energy. This scenario involves a car crash in which a small car is struck broadside by a vehicle of more than double its mass. Students have the task of determining whether either driver engaged in reckless driving.  To solve the problem, students work cooperatively to determine the coefficient of friction on the roadway, velocity of each vehicle at the time of the crash, and velocity of the vehicles prior to braking.  They will use a combination of strategies: Work-Energy Theorem and kinematic equations.  

In keeping with the PBL method, students will sift through information to separate useful from irrelevant data, locate missing information on their own, and then apply physics in finding solutions.

This resource includes a printable student manual and a password-protected teacher's guide with solutions and tips for instructors.  (Accessing the teacher's guide requires registration with the authors.)  SEE RELATED ITEMS ON THIS PAGE for a link to the full collection of PBL exercises by the same authors.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Classical Mechanics
- Applications of Newton's Laws
= Friction
- Linear Momentum
= Collisions in One Dimension
= Conservation of Linear Momentum
- Work and Energy
= Conservation of Energy
Education Practices
- Active Learning
= Cooperative Learning
= Problem Solving
General Physics
- Physics Education Research
- High School
- Lower Undergraduate
- Instructional Material
= Activity
= Best practice
= Instructor Guide/Manual
= Problem/Problem Set
= Student Guide
Intended Users Formats Ratings
- Educators
- Learners
- application/ms-word
- text/html
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Access Rights:
Free access with registration and
Limited free access
Free for non-commerical use with attribution; teacher guide available only with registration.
© 2008 Collegial Centre for Educational Materials Development,
CCDMD, Newton's First Law, PBL, Problem based learning, Work-Energy Theorem, acceleration, context rich, experiential learning, friction, inelastic collision, inertia, kinetic energy, momentum, problem solving, work
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created November 10, 2009 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
September 20, 2012 by Caroline Hall
Last Update
when Cataloged:
December 31, 2008
Other Collections:

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

4. The Physical Setting

4E. Energy Transformations
  • 6-8: 4E/M2. Energy can be transferred from one system to another (or from a system to its environment) in different ways: 1) thermally, when a warmer object is in contact with a cooler one; 2) mechanically, when two objects push or pull on each other over a distance; 3) electrically, when an electrical source such as a battery or generator is connected in a complete circuit to an electrical device; or 4) by electromagnetic waves.
4F. Motion
  • 6-8: 4F/M3a. An unbalanced force acting on an object changes its speed or direction of motion, or both.
  • 9-12: 4F/H1. The change in motion (direction or speed) of an object is proportional to the applied force and inversely proportional to the mass.
  • 9-12: 4F/H7. In most familiar situations, frictional forces complicate the description of motion, although the basic principles still apply.
  • 9-12: 4F/H8. Any object maintains a constant speed and direction of motion unless an unbalanced outside force acts on it.

12. Habits of Mind

12B. Computation and Estimation
  • 9-12: 12B/H2. Find answers to real-world problems by substituting numerical values in simple algebraic formulas and check the answer by reviewing the steps of the calculation and by judging whether the answer is reasonable.
  • 9-12: 12B/H3. Make up and write out simple algorithms for solving real-world problems that take several steps.
12D. Communication Skills
  • 9-12: 12D/H1. Make and interpret scale drawings.
  • 9-12: 12D/H7. Use tables, charts, and graphs in making arguments and claims in oral, written, and visual presentations.
  • 9-12: 12D/H8. Use symbolic equations to represent relationships between objects and events.

Common Core State Standards for Mathematics Alignments

High School — Number and Quantity (9-12)

Vector and Matrix Quantities (9-12)
  • N-VM.3 (+) Solve problems involving velocity and other quantities that can be represented by vectors.

High School — Algebra (9-12)

Seeing Structure in Expressions (9-12)
  • A-SSE.1.a Interpret parts of an expression, such as terms, factors, and coefficients.

High School — Functions (9-12)

Interpreting Functions (9-12)
  • F-IF.4 For a function that models a relationship between two quantities, interpret key features of graphs and tables in terms of the quantities, and sketch graphs showing key features given a verbal description of the relationship.?
  • F-IF.6 Calculate and interpret the average rate of change of a function (presented symbolically or as a table) over a specified interval. Estimate the rate of change from a graph.

Common Core State Reading Standards for Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects 6—12

Key Ideas and Details (6-12)
  • RST.11-12.2 Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; summarize complex concepts, processes, or information presented in a text by paraphrasing them in simpler but still accurate terms.
  • RST.11-12.3 Follow precisely a complex multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks; analyze the specific results based on explanations in the text.
Craft and Structure (6-12)
  • RST.11-12.4 Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 11—12 texts and topics.
Integration of Knowledge and Ideas (6-12)
  • RST.11-12.9 Synthesize information from a range of sources (e.g., texts, experiments, simulations) into a coherent understanding of a process, phenomenon, or concept, resolving conflicting information when possible.

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

Research to Build and Present Knowledge (6-12)
  • WHST.11-12.9 Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
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Record Link
AIP Format
C. Cyr, (Collegial Centre for Educational Materials Development, Montreal, 2008), WWW Document, (
C. Cyr, Problem Based Learning: Collision Investigation (1-D) (Collegial Centre for Educational Materials Development, Montreal, 2008), <>.
APA Format
Cyr, C. (2008, December 31). Problem Based Learning: Collision Investigation (1-D). Retrieved July 23, 2024, from Collegial Centre for Educational Materials Development:
Chicago Format
Cyr, Camil. Problem Based Learning: Collision Investigation (1-D). Montreal: Collegial Centre for Educational Materials Development, December 31, 2008. (accessed 23 July 2024).
MLA Format
Cyr, Camil. Problem Based Learning: Collision Investigation (1-D). Montreal: Collegial Centre for Educational Materials Development, 2008. 31 Dec. 2008. 23 July 2024 <>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Author = "Camil Cyr", Title = {Problem Based Learning: Collision Investigation (1-D)}, Publisher = {Collegial Centre for Educational Materials Development}, Volume = {2024}, Number = {23 July 2024}, Month = {December 31, 2008}, Year = {2008} }
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%A Camil Cyr %T Problem Based Learning: Collision Investigation (1-D) %D December 31, 2008 %I Collegial Centre for Educational Materials Development %C Montreal %U %O application/ms-word

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%0 Electronic Source %A Cyr, Camil %D December 31, 2008 %T Problem Based Learning: Collision Investigation (1-D) %I Collegial Centre for Educational Materials Development %V 2024 %N 23 July 2024 %8 December 31, 2008 %9 application/ms-word %U

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Problem Based Learning: Collision Investigation (1-D):

Is Part Of Problem Based Learning for College Physics

This is the full collection of Problem-Based Learning activities compiled and written by the same authors. Topics include kinematics, dynamics, work and energy, circular motion, and conservation of energy.

relation by Lyle Barbato

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