Quadratic Roller Coaster

Class: Algebra II (7th and 8th grade)

Query: How might we design marble roller coasters with quadratic equations?

In this project students “designed” quadratic equations, traced them, laser cut their contours and then hosted a math amusement park for other grades to attend.

Students modeled their roller coasters on their iPads by writing quadratic equations and passing through 3 different apps before sending their designs to the laser cutter. First students wrote 6 parabolic equations in Desmos. Next, they juxtaposed them, took a screenshot, and then opened the screenshot in Notability where they traced and connected the outlines of the parabolas. They then sent their outline through Vectorize It! on its way to the laser cutter.

Two copies of their model were laser cut out of cardboard. Students then assembled them into a frame made out of clear acrylic and plywood spacers and camps.


Students made at least two iterations of the project, measuring and improving their roller coaster on any metric they chose (e.g. the fastest coaster, the slowest while still finishing, the longest, the biggest jump, etc). When the final versions of all of the roller coasters were ready, and each parabola was labeled with its equation (standard form on one side, vertex form on the other), we invited the whole middle school to play with our quadratic roller coasters. Serious fun!


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