Water Rockets!

Last week was spring break and to celebrate the day before break we ended a unit on quadratics by launching water-bottles into the air and creating quadratic equations for them.  I couldn’t find any resources online for what I wanted us to do, so I made this day long (90 minute) project.


– 2 liter bottles, filled a third of the way with water

– Launch set up.  Its a tube, one way valve, stopper and a gadget to hold up the bottle. (Our science department had a set up I borrowed for the week).

– Bike pump to pressurize the bottles.

– iPad to video the launches

– Timers & Clipboards for groups

Our Packet:

I created a packet for this project to guide student work so I didn’t have to walk students through every part.  We worked on parts 1-4 with part 5 as extra credit.  No one was able to get to part 6 :/

To keep everyone (especially those busy-body eighth graders) engaged, everyone had a job.

1. A videographer to video tape launches with my iPad so we can examine them together in class.

2. A recorder with their packet on their clip board

3. Everyone else was a timer to share with their clip board.  I didn’t have enough timers so some students were on their phones.

Rocket time!

I added pressure to the bottles with the bike pump, students pulled the trigger and launched them into the air.  Most of the time was us having fun and preparing rockets.  🙂

Once we came back inside, students worked together to complete their packet and finding the initial velocity.  Every group ended up with different times so each answer was different.  I liked this because I know that those students were engaged with their own work instead of just getting other people’s answers.  Students needed a lot more help working on part 4 (finding the initial velocity) than I expected which was a challenge.


– A highly engaging activity to work on before break – a lot better math than a Disney movie I’ve done in the past.
– Students were engaged in applying mathematics to the real world.

– If nothing else, I had an opportunity to build relationships with my students which makes the entire day worth it.  Some students that struggle to do work were EXCITED to help out to make the activity happen.  Oh and some students with the “videographer” job were GOLD.  I now have videos that will make me smile any day 🙂

Things I’d change next time:

– All of my students had difficulty with the fourth part – finding their velocity and creating their equation.  I’d recreate that or find a way for it to be less confusing for students.  Also, no one even saw part six – the extension activities.

– Some groups weren’t clear that EVERYONE had a job.  When I made that clearer, the results were better (this is just a lesson for me about maintaining clear expectations always).

– The project could have ended with a LOT more comparison to the original predictions.  It didn’t go full circle and doing so could have enriched student’s mathematical thinking.

Final thoughts: Once again, I see potential for the next time I do this – especially right before a break as a summative work.  I’m pleased with what my students and I accomplished 🙂

p.s. Look out for a video recap – there’ll be a highlight reel coming soon (hopefully by the end of the week if I can figure out how to edit videos).


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