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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 FrictionEvery 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.
First she weighed her basket:
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.
Additional Experiments with FrictionThere are additional experiments that your children can try:
- 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.
More Science for KidsFrom my blog:
- Connect Science and Writing
- Halloween Chemistry Ideas
- 10 Fun Experiments with Solar Energy
- Liquid Fireworks
- Prevent Ice from Melting