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Einstein's Big Idea

Classroom Activities


About this Guide

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Albert Einstein's famous equation, E = mc2, is known to many people but understood by few. This guide—which includes five lesson plans and a time line—is designed to help you and your students learn more about the stories and science behind this renowned formula. Intended for middle and high school students, the lessons look into the lives of the innovative thinkers who contributed to the equation, investigate the science behind each part of the equation, and explore what the equation really means.

Each activity includes a teacher activity setup page with background information, an activity objective, a materials list, a procedure, and concluding remarks. Reproducible student pages are also provided. Most activities align with the National Science Education Standards' Physical Science standard, Structure of Atoms and Structure and Properties of Matter sections.

The Building of Ideas
Create a time line of scientists involved with E = mc2.

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Energy's Invisible World
Explore the meaning of E in E = mc2 by investigating the nature of fields and forces at different stations in the classroom.

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Messing With Mass
Conduct an inquiry into the meaning of m in E = mc2 by measuring mass before and after chemicals react in a plastic bag.

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Squaring Off With Velocity
Investigate the meaning of c2 in E = mc2 by measuring the energy delivered to a cup of flour by a marble falling at different velocities.

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A Trip to Pluto
Consider the meaning of E = mc2 by examining how much of different kinds of fuel would be required to make an imaginary trip to Pluto.

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Who Did What When? A Time Line of E = mc2
Science is a human endeavor that builds on the contributions and efforts of many people. This time line highlights some of the key scientists who helped lay the groundwork for Einstein's insight into the equivalence of energy and mass.

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Credits

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Teacher's Guide
Einstein's Big Idea
BUY THE VIDEO PROGRAM OVERVIEW VIEWING IDEAS CLASSROOM ACTIVITY IDEAS FROM TEACHERS RELATED NOVA RESOURCES INTERACTIVE FOR STUDENTS
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