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Finding Zero: Exploring Mathematical Models with Pendulum Paintings

The Science Teacher—July/August 2024 (Volume 91, Issue 4)

By Daniel McKinney

Pendulum paintings are fun to make and fascinating to observe in process, but they can be used to model real scientific analysis using messy data. In this activity, students create pendulum paintings and develop an analysis using measurements of multiple variables to try to create a mathematical model that will predict the amount of time for the pendulum to stop. Through this analysis of messy data, students expand their critical thinking skills in an attempt to model a complex system. This mirrors what scientists do in the actual study of complex systems such as weather or ecosystems. Additionally, students may see mathematic functions and equations through a different lens as models of real systems, reducing math-related anxiety and promoting mathematical thinking.

Interdisciplinary Mathematics Phenomena High School

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