Investigating Friction

This lesson allows small groups to investigate the movement of toy cars on a variety of surfaces to observe the effects of friction and slope on speed. It suggests a video from YouTube or Discovery Education as an introductory activity. If YouTube is unavailable, consider using another video on forces and motion. Consider allowing students more flexibility in the design of the experiment to encourage inquiry.

Standards & Objectives

Academic standards
GLE 0407.11.2
Design a simple investigation to demonstrate how friction affects the movement of an object.
GLE 0601.1.1
Demonstrate control of Standard English through the use of grammar and mechanics (punctuation, capitalization, and spelling).
Alignment of this item to academic standards is based on recommendations from content creators, resource curators, and visitors to this website. It is the responsibility of each educator to verify that the materials are appropriate for your content area, aligned to current academic standards, and will be beneficial to your specific students.
Learning objectives: 
  • The students will demonstrate an understanding of the terms: force, gravity, friction, and speed. 
  • The students will experiment with the effects of friction on speed and motion. 
  • The students will understand that friction and other forces have an effect on speed and motion.
  • The students will use appropriate language to express their thoughts and ideas. 
  • The students will also work cooperatively in small groups.

Lesson Variations

Blooms taxonomy level: 

Helpful Hints

Materials and Resources:

  • Books, blocks, or other stacking materials 
  • 36" x 12" (1 m x 30.5 cm) pieces of smooth plywood or other sturdy, flat material, 1 per group 
  • Small toy cars with moving wheels, one per student group 
  • Pennies, washers, or other small uniform objects with weight, 6 per student group 
  • Tape 
  • 1-foot (30.5 cm) sheets of heavy duty sand paper, 3 per student group 
  • 3-foot (1 m) sheets of wax paper, 1 per student group 
  • 3-foot (1 m) sheets of bubble wrap, 1 per student group
  • Pencils and erasers 
  • Science journals or writing paper 
  • Stop watch (or watch with second hand), 1 per student group 
  • Meter stick, 1 per student group