Maths: Bede's A Level Students Get Kinetic


In A Level Maths classes this week, the first of three Mechanics classes have been staging end of unit experiments into Kinetic, Gravitational Potential and Elastic Potential Energy. Thankfully none of the participants were harmed... 

"I came up with this 'end of unit' exercise to bring the topic together and emphasise to the students the reason we study Mechanics in the first place," said Bill Richards who teaches the class.

"Using an old doll of my daughter's, some elastic string, a few known masses and a couple of metre rules, courtesy of the Science department, the students are posed the question 'how long should the elastic be to safely bungee jump the doll?'"

The pupils spent the lesson using what they have learned this term to mathematically model the doll, work out a few vital pieces of information and arrive at the length of string they needed to use.

Towards the end of the lesson the group then found a high point on the site to put their calculations into practise. 

"The first year I did this the students all left no margin for error and every group "killed" the baby," explained Mr Richards. "Nowadays I tend to give them a little more guidance and most groups are successful!" 

With two other A Level Math's groups set to try the experiment next week, Mr Richards is keen to stress that under no circumstances should the pupils try the experiment at home with living, breathing participants.

"It's a bit of fun," said Mr Richards in conclusion, "and it brings home to the students the benefits of modelling, i.e. that it's faster, cheaper and often less dangerous than experimenting to find the correct answer."