Text Size
Lesson Title: Inertia and Friction
May 11, 2012

Unit: Physical Science - Forces and Motion

Grade Levels: 4-6

Connection To Curriculum: Science and Mathematics

Teacher Prep Time: 1 hour

Lesson Time Needed: 2.5 hours

Complexity Moderate

Keywords: Newton's laws, mass, inertia, acceleration, force, friction, thrust, staging, rocket design


Newton Car
One 1- by 3- by 8-inch board
Three ¼-in-diameter by 2 ½-in dowels (or wood screws)
Wood glue
Cotton string
Two rubber bands (size 19)
Medicine bottles
25 straight drinking straws (not flex)
Meter stick or ruler
Metric beam balance or scale
Scissors or lighters
Popcorn seeds, washers, pennies, paper clips, etc.
Safety goggles

Racing Against Friction
Large sheets of corrugated cardboard
Masking tape
Felt fabric
Wax paper
Construction paper
Various textbooks
Small toy cars
Stop watches
Student Sheets

This lesson connects a series of activities to examine the relationship between mass, inertia, acceleration, force, friction and speed.

Students will:
• Investigate the relationship between mass, acceleration and force as described in Newton's second law of motion.
• Investigate how varying mass to accelerate an object affects reaction to the force generated.
• Explore friction and the effects it has on the speed of a moving vehicle.
• Predict how forces work in a "space," or microgravity, environment.

First page of Inertia and Friction

Lesson Guide
Inertia and Friction Lesson
[120KB PDF file]



Lesson Activities and Sequence

  1. Newton Car
    Student teams use a wooden car and add rubber bands to toss a small mass off a car resting on rollers, propelling the car in the opposite direction. The team will vary the mass and number of rubber bands, in a number of experiments, to measure how far the car rolls in response to the force.
    Keywords: mass, inertia, acceleration, force, friction

  2. Racing Against Friction
    Working in space can be tricky. With no apparent gravity or friction to keep things in place, relatively simple tasks can become complicated ordeals. To prepare for the rigors of working in space, astronauts train in many different facilities on Earth. One of these facilities, the Precision Air Bearing Facility at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, is used to simulate the reduced friction found in space. This lesson will introduce students to the concept of friction being a slowing force.
    Keywords: friction, working in space

National Standards:

National Science Education Standards, NSTA
Science as Inquiry
• Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry.

Physical Science
• Position and motion of objects.
• Motions and forces.
• Properties and changes of properties in matter.

Science and Technology
• Abilities of technological design.
• Understanding about science and technology.

Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, NCTM
Numbers and Operations in Base Ten
• Generalize place value understanding for multidigit whole numbers.
• Use place value understanding and properties of operations to perform multidigit arithmetic.

Measurement and data
• Solve problems involving measurement and conversion of measurements from a larger unit to a smaller unit.
• Represent and interpret data.

• Graph points on the coordinate plane to solve real-world and mathematical problems.


Image Token: 
Image Token: 
Page Last Updated: July 28th, 2013
Page Editor: NASA Administrator