Talking and Writing to Learn: The Physics of Traffic Intersection Safety, Part One

Main Article Content

Matthew Perkins Coppola


Physics students learn to engage in argument-based inquiry through mathematical modeling and analysis of real-world data collected from a traffic intersection in their own neighborhood. In this first part of the lesson, students focus on a single traffic intersection. Groups of students used equations of motion to construct simple mathematical models to describe how a driver approaches a yellow light at a traffic intersection. Students tested these mathematical models with a fictitious data set, then as a group collected and analyzed data from an actual traffic intersection of their choosing. Students determined the safety of the traffic intersection and presented their findings to their peers and invited members of the community. This practical research project set the stage for students (in Part Two) to tackle the larger question of whether cameras should be used to enforce traffic laws.

Article Details

Lessons - Demonstrations - Instructional Insights
Author Biography

Matthew Perkins Coppola, Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW)

Assistant Professor of Science Education, Indiana University Purdue University Fort Wayne