MnSTEP Teaching Activity Collection > MnSTEP Activities > Investigating Motion: Calculating and Graphing Students Walking Speed

Investigating Motion: Calculating and Graphing Students Walking Speed

Rick Bennett, Cedar Mountain Schools, Morgan, MN, I do not know of any authors
Author Profile


In this activity students will collect and analyze data of their walking speed. They will compare their speed to an outside speed walker. They will determine their speed every 20 meters up to 100 meters. They will complete five trials to determine average time for each of the 20-meter segments. The students will write a lab report describing their results. A description of this lab report is provided. Students will also describe what type of motion occurred.

Learning Goals

1. Students will analyze data and calculate their speed.
2. Students will construct and interpret a position-time graph and a velocity-time graph.
3. Students will calculate their average times and organize their data in tables.
4. Students will write a lab report
5. Students will understand the following terms: independent variable, dependent variable, control, constant, speed, and motion.

Context for Use

Grade level: 9, class size: 20, JH/HS, lab, 30–45 minutes, students should be familiar with calculations, how to write a lab report and how to construct a graph. The students have already gone through several labs to build up their skills in these areas. The activity is very easy to adapt to any grade level or setting.

Subject: Physics:Classical Mechanics:Motion in One Dimension
Resource Type: Activities:Lab Activity
Special Interest: Field-Based Teaching and Learning
Grade Level: Middle (6-8), High School (9-12)
Theme: Teach the Earth:Enhancing your Teaching:Teaching in the Field

Description and Teaching Materials

Students are first introduced to motion by discussion. They first need to find out about the different types of motion that can occur. They then can relate this motion to graphs. There are several small activities that help students learn what to look for when doing this type of activity. The only materials are a timer, notebook paper, and a pen. The students will walk 100 meters a total of five times. They will write their times down every 20 meters. They will calculate the average time, and then calculate the speed at each interval. They will then graph a position-time graph and compare the slope of the graph to the students' speed at 100 meters. They will also compare their speed to an outside walker. The students discuss their findings as a group and then this will lead into the concept of acceleration.

Teaching Notes and Tips

I usually have the students write their data table out first before we start the activity. Be sure to check students on their placement of data. This activity seems to be more real to the students than just watching a toy car travel across the room.


Each student is given a lab report handout of what is expected of him or her. They are graded on their title page, abstract, lab report format, calculations, graph construction, and their interpretation of data.


Physics 5-9, II, D 1,2

References and Resources