Intro to Projectile Motion

or, How I used Noticing & Wondering in Physics

Last week at Global Math Department, we learned from Max Ray (@maxmathforum) about using Noticing & Wondering. As with all the best Global Math presentations, I heard from folks who used the technique the very next day. I always seem to run a little slow compared to my Tweeps, so it took me a few days to find a good entry into my physics classes.

I started here:

Here’s my teaching setup, courtesy of Max:

1. Ask the class to view the clip with this question in mind, “What do you notice?”
2. Give them 1 minute to write individually, 1-2 min to discuss in small groups, then 3 minutes to share the best noticings.Here’s a picture of my 1st period class’s list.
3. Ask the class to think in physics terms, “What do you wonder?” Again with the write-discuss-share thing. Here’s my 1st period class’s list.

I asked them which they wanted to pursue, height of the cliff or acceleration due to gravity. They liked gravity. After we estimated cliff height (which involved the search: “how tall is Wiley E Coyote?”) and the dust settled, we found g was about 3.2 m/s2.

When I picked this clip, it was because it reminded me of this, and the gravity question hadn’t even entered my mind:

Holy cow, this N+W is the good stuff. Kids were engaged, the framework kept us on task, we found a great physics problem I’d never considered, and I had an excellent entry into projectile motion.

4 thoughts on “Intro to Projectile Motion”

1. I’m glad Noticing and Wondering worked for y’all. It sounds like a great prompt and a great investigation ensued! After I read what originally prompted you to choose this clip, I wondered, “if I were running as fast as Wiley in my world, how far out from the cliff would I get before my motion was nearly vertical? Where could I place an opposite cliff so I’d smash it before falling down?”

And also, “with a relatively smaller acceleration due to gravity (is that right, Acme gravity is smaller than ours?) is it realistic that Wiley could shoot almost straight forward with his initial velocity?”

Well done, 1st period physics, and thanks for giving me something to wonder about!

PS — I recently learned that coyotes can reach top speeds of 40mph, while road runners top speeds are about 20mph.

2. Very fun clip. I have gone full blown Notice and WOnder with my students this year and I doubt I’ll ever look back.
“Kids were engaged, the framework kept us on task, we found a great physics problem I’d never considered, and I had an excellent entry into projectile motion.” It’s a wonderful thing.
Thanks for sharing.

3. Sounds cool. Roadrunner May have to make an appearance in my mechanics lessons!