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Car Racing

Sunday, 11 September 2011 | 8 Comments

Playing with the kids’ toys on the weekend, I came across this car and became interested by the relationship between pulling it back and how far it would travel.

Was it a linear relationship or something else?

I set up an experiment. The results are in the video below:

Car Racing from Simon Job on Vimeo.

Also available on YouTube.

The video shows the results when the car is pulled back 5 cm, 15cm and 25 cm.
In Part Two of the video, the results are shown when the car is pulled back 10 cm, 20 cm and 30 cm.

My thought is that the teacher would show the first three results and make a table of the data. Then, make predictions for 10 cm, 20 cm and 30 cm.

A note on the way I set-up the experiment – the car does not start from zero. Rather, the car starts from 30 cm out and is then pulled back the required distance. This should make sense in the data table below.

Experiment Data

Pull back Starting Point Finish Point Distance Travelled
50 250 820 570
100 200 1800 1600
150 150 2780 2630
200 100 3805 3705
250 50 4750 4700
300 0 5610 5610

(all measurements in millimetres)


Enclosed in the file below: 1. Excel file with data, 3. GeoGebra file. (The video file can be downloaded from the Vimeo page).


Car Racing results shown in GeoGebra

This was a bit of good fun to make, there are certainly some things that could be done better.


Music: “Breakdown” by Kevin MacLeod from Incompetech.

Updated 11 October 2013

Added to the file below, a worksheet I created for Year 8 to consider how modelling a linear relationship allows you to predict a result. Also includes a PowerPoint file used to help students plot the results and predict.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License (?).

Posted in • ActivityLesson IdeaAlgebraGraphsMediaVideoTechnologyProjector Resource | Short URL:


enzuber on  11 September 11  at  03:31 PM #
Nice work! One might wonder why it's a linear relationship, and what's with that little swerve it seems to do at the end? What's the hardware and software being making the video?


Simon Job on  11 September 11  at  03:40 PM #
Stunt driving. Just my Canon Ixus on a small tripod and iPhone camera for the measurement shots. Put together in iMovie.
Sir Maths Alot on  11 September 11  at  07:38 PM #
This is awesome. I'm going to run this with my class when we do linear relationships. Now i need to see if the maths department are willing to buy the cars!


Simon Job on  11 September 11  at  07:56 PM #
Well, my intention is that you could do it without the cars - just use the video. Some toy cars need you to pull them back a couple of times (or a long way) as opposed to this particular car.
Sue Fennell on  12 September 11  at  11:34 AM #
MacICT's Pro-Bots Project have tried a similar idea with Y1/2 students using their Pro-Bot car robot. You might be interested to see them.
Kerie Faulkner on  24 October 11  at  04:15 PM #
Thanks Simon. Had fun with the cars activity with a stage 3 enrichment group from local primary schools. They compared flooring around the school and had to re-evaluate their hypotheses at the end.
Daniel Pearcy on  06 December 11  at  11:35 PM #
Hey Simon, This is an awesome idea! I got my students to bring in all of their pull-back cars and then plot the relationship between the pull-back distance and total distance travelled. The lesson summary is on my blog - it promoted some great discussions. Thanks again, Dan
Scott on  12 October 13  at  07:46 AM #
hi - came here from Fawn Nguyen's post -- trying to figure out if this really should be linear, or quadratic. I'm wondering what you make of the feature that the linear model predicts the car will go backwards ~50cm if not pulled back at all (In other words, the non-zero intercept)? Do you or your students have an interpretation of this? Fascinating lesson.

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Simon Job — eleventh year of teaching maths in a public high school in Western Sydney, Australia.
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