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Distance Rate and Time for Math/Science/Physics

By Teacher Librarian Colleen Graves and Aaron Graves.

Appropriate for grade levels 8th to HS

How does acceleration change from a downward drop, to a flat surface, to an uphill ramp? With Makey Makey and Scratch you can measure the change in rate over your desired distance and catch the correct time as your toy car drives over simple DIY switches.

Lesson Objectives

  • Define distance (inches, feet, miles), rate (centimeters/inches per second,mph), and time (milliseconds,seconds)
  • Measure velocity with a given distance
  • Using distance formula, students will calculate the speed of travel (rate)
  • Experiment with potential and kinetic energy by weighing an object and calculating rate with different weights
  • Measure slope and the effect it has on acceleration/rate.

Lesson Materials

  • Makey Makey for each student or partner groups
  • Alligator Clips
  • Hotwheels Track (or off-brand)
  • Toy Cars
  • magnetic weights to add to cars
  • DIY Switches - foil, copper tape, paper clips, coffee stirs, straws, legos, etc...
  • Scratch Game to use or remix
  • telephone wire or other long wire

Hooking up Makey Makey to Track

Use the Makey Makey to effectively time your car's speed- Students will use this Scratch game (or create their own game) to record the amount of time the car travels over a given distance.

  1. Students will set up ramps for the toy car. Make sure they create a potential and kinetic energy scenario by having a downward ramp at the start and an upward ramp near the middle or at the end of each track.
  2. Demonstrate how to measure the slope for each ramp and record data on the experiment log.
  3. Create DIY switches to start and stop each experiment. In the game I've created, there is a start/stop for acceleration and a start/stop for deceleration. (That makes four switches total.)
  4. Attach switches to Makey Makey as follows:
  • Acceleration Start- Spacebar (and earth)
  • Acceleration End- Up Arrow (and earth)
  • Deceleration Start- Down Arrow (and earth)
  • Deceleration End- Right Arrow (and earth)

DIY Switch Ideas for Your Track

Logging Distance, Time, and Slope

Students can use this chart or create their own to log the dedicated distance, changes in slope, time of travel, and added weight for each experiment.

Students will need to log the time for each car trip and hit the green flag to reset the time. They can run as many experiments as you desire.

Utilizing Distance Formula to find Rate

The Scratch game has a formula built in and is programmed to run the equation 10 times.

  • To use the built-in formula have your students connect the 'w' key to an 'equation' switch.
  • If students want to log more than 10 answers, they can hit the 'w' key again to start the equation over.


  • Convert rate from inches per second to mph.
  • Change the slope of the ramp and perform the experiment over again! How much did the rate change in conjunction with the change in slope? Create a line graph of your experiments.
  • Create a word problem based on this experiment.
  • Use a small ball or marble to recreate the experiment.
  • Add friction to the track with strips of double stick tape or adhere sections of paper to the track.
  • Create a jump on the track between two timers. Does the car travel faster or slower now? Why?


Marji, Majed. Learn to Program with Scratch: A Visual Introduction to Programming with Games, Art, Science, and Math. , 2014. Print.

"Speedy Science: How Does Acceleration Affect Distance?" Scientific American Global RSS. Web.

Hat tip to these Scratch Stopwatch and Timers:

For those who want to teach students arithmatic equations in Scratch and would like a video tutorial:


Note on Standards

These lessons were developed with the idea that teachers all over the globe and a variety of grade levels could hack the lesson plan to meet their students' needs. Therefore, these are just some of the standards the lessons are based on, and not an all-inclusive list. Many of the CCSS align by grade level, so if you teach 9th grade, you could find the stair-stepped standard for CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.8.6 by looking at CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.9-10.6.

Common Core

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.8.EE.B.5: Understand the connections between proportional relationships, lines, and linear equations.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.HSN.VM.A.3: Solve problems involving velocity and other quantities that can be represented by vectors.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.8.EE.B.5: Graph proportional relationships, interpreting the unit rate as the slope of the graph. Compare two different proportional relationships represented in different ways. For example, compare a distance-time graph to a distance-time equation to determine which of two moving objects has greater speed.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.8.EE.C.7: Solve linear equations in one variable.


4-PS3-1: Use evidence to construct an explanation relating the speed of an object to the energy of that object.

4-PS3-2: Make observations to provide evidence that energy can be transferred from place to place by sound, light, heat, and electric currents.

MS-PS3-1: Construct and interpret graphical displays of data to describe the relationships of kinetic energy to the mass of an object and to the speed of an object.

HS-PS3-3: Design, build, and refine a device that works within given constraints to convert one form of energy into another form of energy.

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