Teach Maths / Floating Boats

Who’s boat can hold the mIMG_2950ost weight?

A hands-on activity to try during a unit on measurement is the Foil Boat Challenge. Provide students with a 30x30cm sheet of aluminum foil with which to create their boat. Have a stack of 10gram weights ready to place, one by one, on to each boat during the testing stage. The excitement escalates as the weights stack up and the boat begins to list or take on water. They enjoy counting in tens as each weight is added. Record each boat’s score in a chart or table and have students estimate the weight they expect their boat to be able to hold prior to beginning the test.

If you have the time, give students a fresh sheet of foil and the opportunity for a second trial. Students can reflect upon which design features they may need to include to build a better boat. This challenge is an ideal opportunity to discuss variables and fair testing, as well as data collection, averages and graphing.

A variation of the activity is to build boats out of plasticine. Or up the ante and use kilogram weights to test newspaper bridge designs.