Tuesday, October 27, 2015

# Physics for Kids: Exploring Friction

I am very excited to start a new ongoing project with Smarty – exploring physics and pre-algebra together. Our first topic is friction.

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## Life of Fred

In some ways, Smarty can’t wait to grow up. She is very curious about the subjects that are not covered in elementary school, such as algebra, chemistry, and physics. She has just officially completed 5th grade curriculum through online Stanford math class and said that she is ready for algebra. So I investigated my options a bit and decided to continue our nightly math time with Life of Fred Pre-Algebra 0.
So far Smarty loves Life of Fred. The stories make her giggle aloud, and I keep asking myself, Why can’t a school text book be so much fun? I am really impressed with how Dr. Schmidt weaves references to other subjects and how he asks questions on the material that he did not cover in the chapter. This is a brilliant way to make students think for themselves and tolerate not knowing or making mistakes. Pre-algebra book started with a problem of moving a heavy safe down the hallway and explained how the force of friction is calculated. It was interesting for me to see how readily Smarty was manipulating variables in the formula – it was something that she was developmentally not ready to do just a few months ago, but now she seems to understand how variables work. Of course, as real physicists, she wanted to do some hands on experimenting too.

## Experimenting with Friction

Every budding scientist should have a spring scale! We gave this Ajax Scientific Plastic Tubular Spring Scale to Smarty as a birthday present, but it will also make an excellent scientific Christmas stocking stuffer. This scale is graduated in Newtons and kilograms just as real scientific instruments are graduated, and I explained Smarty how to use a spring scale to measure force. Then she was off to the races experimenting with a basket full of party favors for her birthday party.

Then she measured how much force she needs to apply to drag the basket along the wooden floor:

Using her math skills she calculated coefficient of friction and then compared it with what happens when she drags the basket on the carpet.

• Put the same weight in containers of different shape and drag them on the same surface to establish that friction is independent of the contact area.
• Put different weight in a container and confirm that the force that you need to apply for different weights can be plotted as a straight line on the graph if the surface remains the same.
• Predict the smoothest surface in your house and calculate its coefficient of friction.
• Predict the roughest surface in your house and calculate its coefficient of friction.

What science experiments have you done lately?

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Ticia said...

I might have to break down and properly label my "Things That Go Boom" board as physics and chemistry if you're going to have lots of posts on this topic.

JL said...
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An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

C and E have just been working through similar experiments with the Thames and Kosmos Physics kit that we found on clearance at the bookstore - 70% off - I couldn't resist! Although, I imagine Smarty is benefiting more by coming to the experiments independently.

maryanne @ mama smiles said...

My kids love the Life of Fred books! Maybe I should get this one for Emma...

Kylie said...

We love Fred books here too!

Selena Robinson said...

Thanks for linking up at the Laugh and Learn Linkup! I'll be featuring your post this week. :)

Audrey Urban said...

Can Smarty come teach me Physics? If I had her brainpower I wouldn't have dropped out of college.