Projectile Motion Lesson Plan: The Project T.R.I.G. Game

Grade Levels: 6-8, 9-12

In this lesson plan which is adaptable for grades 6-12, students explore the mathematics of projectile motion using a free online game. Students will apply their knowledge of math and physics (including angles and trigonometry) in order to create successful projectile trajectories.

Students will:

  1. Apply knowledge of math and physics concepts to an online projectile motion game.

Materials:

  • Computers with internet access for BrainPOP
  • Interactive whiteboard

Preparation:

This lesson plan uses a free online game from Math Playground called Project T.R.I.G The game allows students to apply their knowledge of angles and trigonometry as they adjust speed and angle variables to control the flight of a projectile. Students are given the opportunity to adjust the variables based on the outcome of their last flight, and the landing target becomes more difficult to reach as the game progresses.

There are 12 levels of game play which allow students to gain an intuitive understanding of projectile physics and how the variables of launch angle and initial velocity affect the trajectory. However, we encourage you to guide students to use the grid and data tables in the game so that students make connections to their formal math and physics knowledge and improve their scores. More advanced students can apply knowledge of trigonometry and projectile physics to accurately predict where projectiles will land.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. What is a projectile trajectory? What do students already know about the mathematics of projectile motion? Talk with students about any experiences they've had with projectile physics and the factors that affect the trajectory of an object.
  2. Activate prior knowledge by playing the Angles movie for students, asking students to listen for information that is applicable to the projectile motion discussion. Afterward, facilitate a class discussion or have students brainstorm with a partner. What are the different types of angles? How do you think angles affect projectile trajectory?
  3. Show the Project T.R.I.G game on your interactive whiteboard. Demonstrate how to interact with the game through the control panel located at the bottom. Use the sliders on the left to set the angle and launch velocity. Explain that each level contains four attempts which are tracked in the control panel.
  4. Invite student volunteers up to try different strategies and explain their approaches. Show students that they can toggle on "Grid" and "Data". The first overlays a grid on the play area, and the second records and displays the x- and y-coordinates of the projectile at every tenth of second. How could these tools be useful in helping students score more points?
  5. Allow students to explore the game on their own or with a partner for 5-10 minutes. Encourage them to utilize the grid and data options.
  6. Instruct students to take a break from game and bring everyone back to a whole class discussion. Draw students' attention to the mathematical description of projectile motion, which can be accessed through the "?" button. Guide students to make connections between the game and their formal mathematical knowledge about projectile motion, and talk about how using math and physics principles can help students achieve the best possible score.
  7. Provide additional time for students to practice their math and physics skills through game play.
  8. Assess student learning using the game quiz.