Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Rockets, Science, and Math

What child has never wished to play with rockets?  With the move towards using math across the curriculum, rockets are the perfect vessel to create a unit tying math, science, English, and social studies together.

Looking only at the math portion of such a unit, there is so much math we can use in the classroom.  NASA has a wonderful introduction to Rockets covering both math and physics.

This site has great explanations of functions, the trig involved, maximum altitude, and the Pythagorean theorem.  The index page lists all of the math discussed at this site including area, volume, scalars and vectors, and lots of other math including thermodynamics.

Rocketmime has some simplified equations along with instructions for using them to find how high the rocket will go, time to get that high, and possible mistakes ones can make when running the calculations. In addition, the site provides the equations used in a multistage rocket, creating rocket simulations using spread sheets, parachute calculations, etc.  It is set up to use spread sheets to calculate so much including determining the stability of a rocket.

If you're not familiar with all the specific terms in Rocket Science, you might want to check out this site from the UK because it tries to bridge the gap and help people understand the physics and maths.  Many of the explanations include examples so you can see how the formulas are used and can take that step towards doing it yourself.

Yes quite a lot of the math is related to science because of force, Newton's laws, etc but this shows students how interconnected the topics are.  The social studies teacher can have students research the history of rockets while they can write up on this in English or perhaps read a book such as October Sky to explore the topic.

Unfortunately, most highs schools are unable to create cross curricular units due to the demands of the state and the federal government.  Even if you can't create a cross curricular unit, you could create a short unit to teach in your math class.