How can you go faster down a slide?
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Discuss:

You can’t make the slide steeper, but you want to go down the slide faster.

What else could you change? (Think of your favorite slides.)

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Discuss:

Materials that have low friction are slippery.

Can you name some materials with low friction?

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Discuss: (question 1 of 3)

What happens when you put all the sliders on the slide when it’s flat, and then slowly raise one end of the slide?

Reveal answer

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Discuss: (question 2 of 3)

What happened when you raced a cardboard slider with 5 pennies against one with no pennies?

Reveal answer

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Discuss: (question 3 of 3)

What questions did you come up with? What happened when you experimented to answer them?

Reveal answer

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TEACHERS — NEED A NATURAL STOPPING POINT?

The next video describes ways to do a “fair test” to decide which slider has the least friction. After the video, groups of students will use the Friction Investigation Worksheet and figure out their own method for testing. Then the class will discuss their results.

The remainder of this lesson will take at least 30 minutes. If your time is limited, this is a natural stopping point. Have students write their names on materials, then collect them and resume the activity next science class.

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Discuss: (question 1 of 3)

A claim is a statement that you think is true.

Who wants to make a claim about which material has the most friction? (That's the one that slides the worst.)

What’s your evidence?

Does anyone want to make a different claim?

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Discuss: (question 2 of 3)

Who wants to make a claim about which material has the least friction?

What’s your evidence?

Does anyone want to make a different claim?

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Discuss: (question 3 of 3)

If you had time in the future to do more friction experiments, what would you do differently?

What other tests would you want to try?

Why?

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Extensions

Below are ideas for extending this topic beyond the activity & Exploration you just completed.
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Funny Videos

Can you figure out what's going on in each video? What evidence supports your answers?

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Image & Video Credits

Mystery Science respects the intellectual property rights of the owners of visual assets. We make every effort to use images and videos under appropriate licenses from the owner or by reaching out to the owner to get explicit permission. If you are the owner of a visual and believe we are using it without permission, please contact us—we will reply promptly and make things right.

Lesson Image
little girl on slide by rx2web , used under CC BY
Exploration
Ballot Box by FutUndBeidl , used under CC BY
sliding downhill by CS Roth
San Francisco panorama by Steven Damron , used under CC BY
playground set by Greg Goebel , used under CC BY-SA
stone slide by Joshua Stacy , used under CC BY
squiggle slide by F Delventhal , used under CC BY
Hickory Hills opening by City of Marietta, GA , used under CC BY
long slide by Seth Werkheiser , used under CC BY-SA
Burnham Thorpe playground by Elliot Brown , used under CC BY
big yellow slide by Jason Lander , used under CC BY
aquapark steep drop by Tim Sheerman , used under CC BY
Insano by Bloggedd , used under CC BY
double slides by Pilgrim Fatima , used under CC BY-SA
going down by N@ncyN@nce , used under CC BY
toddler slide by Today's Classroom , used under CC BY
friction by cdxglobal
wood slide by Little Wagon Train
playground slide by KENPEI , used under CC BY-SA
friction surface by Stack Exchange Inc , used under CC BY-SA
jeans by M62 , used under CC BY-SA
bottle cap collection by Carlos Jose
legendary slip n fly by Brice Milleson , used under CC BY
old slide by Corrine Klug
Print Prep
Activity Prep

In this Mystery, students will learn about friction (the force that slows you down on a playground slide). In the activity, The Great Slide Challenge, students work in groups of four to test which materials have the most friction and which materials have the least friction. Each group makes a model of a slide using a stack of books and a piece of cardboard, and makes "sliders" out of different materials.

Preview activity

Number of students:
Friction Investigation worksheet 1 per student
Hardcover Books
Used to prop up one end of the slide.
Details
3 books per group
Rulers
1 ruler per group
Chipboard
You can also use recycled cardboard cut into 1-inch squares.
Details
2 square inches per group
Craft Foam
Can also use thin styrofoam.
Details
2 square inches per group
Glue Dots
Tape will also work. We prefer sticky glue dots because they are easier to distribute in a classroom.
Details
20 dots per group
Large Plastic Buttons
You can also use recycled plastic bottle caps.
Details
2 buttons per group
Sandpaper
2 square inches per group
Stiff Cardboard
Needs to measure at least 12" by 16." Recycled is fine. The lid of a cardboard file storage box works well.
Details
1 piece per group
Pennies
Used as weights on the "sliders."
Details
12 coins per group
Prep Instructions

We suggest students work in groups of four. Homeschool students can work on their own.

Prepare Testing Materials

Each of the materials that students will be testing as “sliders” needs to be about the same size. So before class, cut the chipboard (or cardboard), craft foam (or styrofoam), and sandpaper into 1-inch squares.

Make Model Slides

Each group first needs to make a model of a slide using books and a piece of cardboard. It should look something like this:

Slide Challenge Model

Separate Materials for Classroom Distribution

We suggest providing each group with 1-inch squares of each material that you have prepared prior to class, plus plastic buttons (or plastic bottle caps) and metal bottle caps (or large metal coins). Each group of four will also need about 20 sticky glue dots. You may want to separate or group these materials for easier classroom distribution.

Slide Challenge Supplies

Extensions
Download this Mystery to your device so you can play it offline: