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Graphs are awesome

September 13, 2011

Today I showed one of my favorite physics videos that isn’t a physics video.

What stops population growth? from Gapminder Foundation on Vimeo.

I start off with some really simple plotting work that they’re used to from their math classes, runners on a track or what have you. Then I talk about all the other things you can plot. Price of milk vs. time. Price of milk vs latitude. How much is milk in the middle of the Atlantic? Usually the question pops up, what else can you plot. I tend to show this video in response.

The follow up is my first homework assignment of the year where I ask them to graph a bunch of random things:

1) Sketch a plot of velocity vs time for a car accelerating from a stop and moving onto a freeway. Include reasonable units.
2) Plot your height as a function of time over the last 16 or so years.
3) Plot the amount of sunlight hitting your front yard on a sunny day as a function of time. Include 24 hours, use arbitrary units for the sunlight.
4) Recall the traditional tortoise and the hare story. Plot their positions along the race track as a function of time.
5)Plot your hunger as a function of time for a normal 24 school day. You will have to decide how to approach hunger while sleeping.
6) Make up two of your own graphs. Something interesting is preferable.*

*I’d say well over a half of my students end up graphing “tiredness” as a function of time for #6. I do wish they’d listen to my instructions that sleep comes before physics.

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