After school each day, without fail, my two girls make a beeline for their helmets, bikes and scooters. In a flash, the sink is full of their dirty dishes (hey, at least they actually emptied their lunchboxes!) and they’re back out the door cruising around our small neighborhood, having races, and inventing imaginative scenarios in which bikes become postal trucks and electric scooters are big city taxi cabs. For my daughters, as it is for most kids, there’s nothing better than running (and biking..and scootering…and rollerblading) free outside during the warm months.
This Get Moving! Time Trials Math Activity will help you inject a tiny bit of educational fun by calculating their miles per hour while your kids bask in the glow of the summer sun.
What You’ll Need
- any and all modes of transportation you can find!
- electric Scooter
- rollerblades / roller skates
- big wheel
- running shoes
- pogo stick
- stopwatch or stopwatch app on your smartphone.
- calculator or calculator app on your smartphone.
- sidewalk chalk
- pad and pencil
Getting Set Up
Decide on a flat and straight stretch of asphalt — your own street, if not a busy thoroughfare, or a school parking lot on a quiet weekend. Park your car at the start of what will become a .1 mile race track and help your kids design a rad starting line with sidewalk chalk beginning at the front tires. Then drive exactly .1 mile, stop the car, and use the chalk again to make a checkered flag finish line (again just in front of your front tires). No car? No problem, simply use a free, GPS-based running app (like Runkeeper) on your smartphone and walk the .1 mile to establish the mini race track.
Now, move the car off to the side and line up the various modes of transportation you’ve accumulated along the starting line. Take a picture, because it will probably be a super colorful shot! On the notepad, make a list of all the bikes, scooters, skates, etc that will be participating in the activity.
Finally, it’s time to get moving! Have your child strap on their helmet and travel the course, one mode of transportation at a time, while you time them with the stopwatch. Write down the their times on the notepad.
How To Calculate MPH
I promise to keep the math portion of this activity as simple as possible!
Because we need both distance represented as mileage (that’s easy — a fixed .1 mile in this scenario) and time represented as hours, you’ll first need to convert your kid’s race times into decimals to represent a tiny portion of a full hour. To do this, you’ll divide their time in seconds by 3600 (the # of seconds in an hour).
Wait, it’s not as complex as that sounds!
For example: if it took 1.5 minutes (90 seconds) to go .1 mile on the Big Wheel, the math would look like this:
90 / 3600 = .025 hours.
Then, divide .1 (miles) by .025 (hours) to get a speed of 4.0 miles per hour (MPH).
One more example: if it took just 35 seconds to go .1 mile on the electric scooter, the math would look like this:
35 / 3600 = .0097 hours.
Then, divide .1 by .0097 to get a speed of 10.3 MPH.
Of course, you could always just plug the figures into this super easy online MPH calculator!
Did your child come close to Usain Bolt speed? Could they defeat a mouse in a race? Continue on to the bonus section below to match your child’s quickness with the top speeds of different animals and insects.
Bonus Time — Find Your Animal!
My youngest daughter (the one pedaling away above) is infatuated with nature, spending much of her time pouring over animal encyclopedias and regaling me with clever factoids like exactly how fast each animal can run. She demanded that we incorporate animals into this activity!
And she was right to do so, because one way to make this Get Moving Time Trials activity even more kid-friendly (as if the math isn’t exciting enough!) is to find their speedy or slow spirit animal! Consult your own handy dandy animal encyclopedia or scroll through the top speeds of a variety of insects, birds and land mammals to see if your child is as fast as an giraffe (not likely) or slower than a mosquito (also not likely).
Get Moving and Have Fun!