Impact Processes at Meteor Crater

Kéyah Math Project development team: Nancy Zumoff, Christopher Schaufele, Steven Semken, Tracy Perkins, Lynn Onken, Philippe Laval, David Gonzales, and Andrew Becenti (deceased).
Kéyah Math Project directed by Steven Semken , Arizona State University; and Christopher Schaufele and Nancy Zumoff, Professors of Mathematics, Emeritus.
Archived at Arizona State University School of Earth and Space Exploration.

This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection

This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the process are

  • Scientific Accuracy
  • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
  • Pedagogic Effectiveness
  • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
  • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

For more information about the peer review process itself, please see

This page first made public: Jun 30, 2008


In this activity, students are introduced to impact processes in a study of Meteor Crater in northern Arizona. They are guided in the use of a set of relatively simple formulas from physics to estimate the energy of impact and the size of the impactor that formed the crater.

Click here to view the full activity on the Kéyah Math Project website.

Learning Goals

  • Use relatively simple formulas from physics to estimate the size of the meteorite that formed Meteor Crater in Arizona:
  • Use a formula relating kinetic energy and diameter of the crater to find kinetic energy released on impact;
  • Use the formula relating KE and mass to find the mass of the meteorite;
  • Use a formula relating mass, volume, and density to find the volume of the meteorite;
  • Use a formula relating spherical volume to radius to find the diameter of the meteorite.

    Mathematical Skills
  • Use basic algebra.
  • Solve simple equations.
  • Context for Use

    This activity consists of a set of quantitative problem-solving exercises that can be used as an in-class activity or an assignment in any introductory course with a unit on impact processes or impact events, such as:
  • Physical geology or physical geography
  • Historical geology or Earth history
  • Environmental geology, natural hazards, natural disasters
  • Earth system science or Earth and space science
  • Introductory astronomy or cosmology
  • Description and Teaching Materials

    Teaching Notes and Tips

    An Instructor's Guide to all Kéyah Math activities is available online from the Instructor Resources page on the Kéyah Math website.


    Students record their work and answers in a word-processor document or a notebook, which can be submitted to the instructor for assessment. Solutions to these problems are available online from the Instructor Resources page on the Kéyah Math website.

    References and Resources