The purpose of the "Investigations" department is to provide mathematically rich and inviting contexts in which children and their teachers solve problems, communicate, and reason. Investigations encourage students to make connections among mathematical ideas, as well as connections with contexts outside of mathematics. As students collaborate, experiment, explore, collect data, research various sources, and engage in activities during the investigation, they will have opportunities to represent their mathematical ideas in multiple ways.
Investigations are composed of multiple tasks that collectively promote deep examination of a core topic and question. They are open-ended and often require multiple periods to complete. The following investigation has been adapted from an activity in NCTM's Mission Mathematics: Linking Aerospace and the NCTM Standards, K-6 (1997), a teachers' resource book that presents mathematical problems and tasks that focus on NCTM's Principles and Standards in the context of aerospace activities. The investigation has been enriched by classroom field testing and student and teacher reflections.
Preparing for the Investigation
Most children are interested in rockets and space travel, especially when launches of shuttles are televised. The variables that must be analyzed to produce a successful launch are numerous. Invite your students to explore variables involved with rocket launches, such as the angle of launch, the amount of thrust, and the weight of the rocket. In this investigation, students will use rubber bands to explore how changing a variable affects the distance that the rubber-band rockets travel.
Each launcher can be made using a protractor and a ruler. The ruler is taped to the protractor at the given angle so that the centimeter side of the ruler is on the bottom edge and forms one side of the angle. The ruler should be taped to the protractor in such a way that the straight edge of the protractor may be held flat against the floor, as shown in figure 1. The rubber band is then wrapped around the end of the ruler and stretched along the centimeter side to span the designated centimeter measure in preparation for launch.
The level of mathematical vocabulary used in the …