Galileo’s Ramp

Type: Investigation

Theme: Physics

Grades: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10


Learning Target: Students will learn how velocity can be determined for an accelerating object. They will discover the fundamentals of calculus.


speed limitPlease collaborate in groups of two or three.

Materials: two meter sticks (connected in v-shaped channel) or drywall paper-faced corner bead, a large book, a marble, stopwatch, and notebook. (If inches, use 20 in/s speed limit sign.)

Objective: Calculate the velocity (speed) of a marble at four locations along a ramp. 

  1. What is velocity (distance/time)? Velocity equals change in distance divided by change in time.
  2. Make a plan to accurately calculate the velocity (meters per second) of your marble on the ramp. How will you calculate the velocity of an accelerating object? Annotated sketches are required.
  3. Construct the ramp and perform tests. Capture video or photographic artifacts.
  4. Answer the following questions:
    1. How high was the starting point of the ramp in cm?
    2. Where on the ramp is the marble at its average speed?
    3. Is acceleration constant throughout the marble’s journey?
    4. Did you break the speed limit? (0.5 m/s or 20 in/s)
  5. Peer review and revisions. Ask two students review your project. Make at least one revision based on their input. Please review two different projects. Please include this Peer_Review.docx with your project.
  6. Submission: Word document containing the following (you are not required to create a Sway or PowerPoint).
    1. Your name(s)
    2. Your plan 
    3. Video or photo documentation
    4. Desmos graph of your results (high school students, please regress your data.)
    5. Peer Review document.
    6. Evaluation (a brief paragraph on your results and how you would revise your plan next time.)


Exit Ticket
CCSS Math Practice
  • I can model with mathematics.
  • I can attend to precision.
NGSS Crosscutting Concepts
  • Systems and System Models
  • Energy and Matter