The essential question of this unit is: "How do adjustments to various components of a catapult affect the trajectory of a projectile?" Students will attempt to answer this question by performing a series of experiments. In each experiment, students will change one variable while holding all other variables constant. These variables are arm length, angle of release, and spring torsion. As students experiment and develop models for the trajectory of their projectiles, they should begin to associate specific changes with changes in the coefficients of their functions. Eventually students will be expected to predict how multiple changes to the launch structure will affect the trajectory and associate these alterations to changes in the modeling equation.
This curricular unit corresponds directly with the second and third units of study in the New Haven Public School district algebra 2 curricula. The unit, however, is designed as an introductory approach to quadratic functions and may be used to supplement the last unit of the honors algebra 1 curricula. The second unit focuses on graphing quadratics by calculating the vertex and line of symmetry. The third unit primarily focuses on solving quadratic functions.