Investigating Functions with a Ferris Wheel Distance vs Width

  • Investigating Functions with a Ferris Wheel: Distance vs. Width


    A Web Sketchpad activity helps students make sense of relationships between quantities, in this case the way that the distance a car travels around a Ferris wheel covaries with its "width" or horizontal distance from the center of the Ferris wheel.



    For a full description of how this resource can be used with students, please read "Investigating Functions with a Ferris Wheel" from the December 2016 issue of Mathematics Teacher. 
    The activity links an animation of a turning Ferris wheel to dynamic graphs relating the quantities of "width" (horizontal distance from the center of the Ferris wheel) and distance. When students press the Animate Point button, the car (represented by the red dot) moves in a counterclockwise direction around the Ferris wheel.   
    To vary the rate at which the car moves, students can click and drag the car to control the motion. In addition, students can speed up or slow down the animation. By design, the dynamic graph represents only one revolution of the Ferris wheel so that students do not also have to keep track of the number of revolutions of the wheel. 
    Teachers can hide or show different elements to vary students’ opportunities for exploration. 
    On page 2 of the sketch, width is represented on the horizontal axis and distance on the vertical axis. By varying which quantities each axis represents, a teacher can provide additional opportunities for student exploration 

    Objectives and Standards

    NCTM Standards and Expectations
    • Algebra
    • Algebra