Unit Forces:
Mass and Momentum

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Quick Look

Grade Level: 7 (6-8)

Choose From: 2 lessons and 5 activities

Subject Areas: Physical Science, Physics

A head-on collision involving two cars.
A head-on collision involving two cars.
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Summary

In this unit, students explore the concepts of mass, center of mass, equilibrium, and stability by exploring how objects balance. Students learn about linear momentum — movement in a straight line —and demonstrate conservation of momentum in collisions between objects of different masses. In associated literacy activities, students apply center of mass and the psychological phenomenon of momentum.

Engineering Connection

Engineers apply the concepts of mass, center of mass, equilibrium, and stability to safely design structures (auditoriums, shopping malls) and crafts (airplanes, cruise ships, kayaks). This is especially important for structures that may be impacted by heavy loads or natural phenomena like hurricanes or earthquakes. Engineers apply knowledge about momentum and collisions so they can design products with safety in mind. For example, engineers design cars with crumple zones—areas of the car that absorb the momentum of the forces hitting the car—and airbags to protect passengers by accounting for the conservation of momentum.

Unit Schedule

Suggested order of activities:

More Curriculum Like This

Middle School Lesson
Exploring Linear Momentum

Students also investigate the psychological phenomenon of momentum; they see how the "big mo" of the bandwagon effect contributes to the development of fads and manias, and how modern technology and mass media accelerate and intensify the effect.

Middle School Lesson
Collisions and Momentum: Bouncing Balls

This lesson introduces the concepts of momentum, elastic and inelastic collisions. Many sports and games, such as baseball and ping-pong, illustrate the ideas of momentum and collisions. Students explore these concepts by bouncing assorted balls on different surfaces and calculating the momentum for...

Middle School Activity
Skateboard Disaster

Students examine collisions between two skateboards with different masses to learn about conservation of momentum in collisions.

Middle School Activity
Tightrope Trials

To learn about the concept of center of mass, students examine how objects balance. They make symmetrical cut-outs of different "creatures" and experiment with how they balance on a tightrope of string. Students see the concept of center of mass at work as the creatures balance.

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Last modified: October 21, 2021

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