Lesson 4
Part 2

A Long Way Down: Designing Parachutes

Designing a Parachute (2) / Grade 4 / Fall River, MA

The EIE Curriculum


Students apply their knowledge of air resistance and aerospace engineering as they imagine, plan, create, test, and improve their own parachutes. 

Reflection Questions

How do you see Jean emphasizing the math embedded in this lesson?

Jean encourages her students to do the necessary measurement for the parachutes they will be testing and pushes them to complete the necessary calculations, even if it’s math work they have not done previously.

  • Groups measure their own parachute radius as part of the Create step. (0:55)
  • Jean discusses with the group that they will round results to the nearest tenth of a second, and gives an example number that she has students round to the nearest tenth. (2:05)
  • We see Jean give a group a calculator to find their average drop speed. They’ve not divided decimals before, but Jean pushes their math skills by having them use the calculator to do the math problem and then use their own past experience to round to the nearest tenth. (3:30)
  • While students used calculators to determine average drop speeds, Jean still checks to make sure they understand the meaning behind the number. She asks if anyone can explain what the average drop speed means, guiding students to verbalize their mathematical thinking. (4:45)

What questions and strategies do you see Jean using to encourage her students to analyze class data?

Jean asks about possible correlations between variables and average drop speed.

  • Jean asks if students see a correlation between canopy size, suspension line length, and drop speed. A student is able to state a correlation, noting that when you had bigger suspension lines and canopies, you had a lower average drop speed. (6:00)
  • After groups test their improved designs, Jean posts their new data in the same chart as their old data. This allows students to directly see what variables were changed and how that affected drop speeds. (10:00)
  • When posting new average drop speeds, Jean asks groups to decide whether the new speed is better or worse than the old drop speed. This requires groups to compare the values in feet per second to answer the question. (10:05)