TES Maths ROTW: Mathematical modelling activity

Craig Barton
23rd November 2015

TES Maths Resource of the Week

Resource title: Mathematical modelling activity

Resource author: SRWhitehouse

What is it?

A rich, challenging and incredibly engaging modelling activity involving bicycle wheels and graphs of trigonometric functions. If you are looking for a way of adding a bit of spice and relevance to the graphs of trigonometric functions and their subsequent transformations, then this is the activity for you.

It starts with students being challenged to sketch the location of some correction fluid on a bike tyre as the bike moves. But before long the students are considering the effects of different locations of the correction fluid, and even a bit of skidding, on the graph.

How can it be used?

You need the right kind of class to take on something like this. And I am not necessarily talking about high-ability only. I mean a class that is willing to take on challenges, ask questions, make mistakes and not give up. If you have that kind of class, whether they be in Years 10, 11, 12 or 13, then I would seriously recommend trying this activity. The quality of the discussions that can be generated are immense.

Moreover, it puts a practical, relevant spin on what can be a tricky and abstract topic. I would recommend using Desmos alongside this activity, so students can experiment with different types of graphs, hypothesising and observing the effect that changes have on each of them.


Craig Barton

Craig is a secondary maths teacher in the North of England.

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