Too bad they don’t have this T-shirt in kid sizes, because today science just got real here.

If you give a kid a car, he’s gonna race it down the slide.

This morning we started sliding Matchbox cars down our outdoor slide. It didn’t take long for us to start racing them, and comparing which one went farthest.

And if he slides cars down the slide, he’ll want to measure how far they go.

Naturally (at least, for us) it wasn’t long before we pulled out our 100′ tape measure and started actually measuring how far the cars went, compared to each other. Benji quickly learned how to read the tape measure, and it wasn’t long before he accurately reported the distances himself.

And if he measures how far they’re going, mommy will want to write it down.

Of course, we then started recording the distances each car went…

And finally, 57 cars later, we had a full data set. (Although, in reviewing it, I suspect we may have done one car twice. Noooo!) I should mention that this took a long time, but our interest never wavered. We even took an hour-long break to do errands, but immediately resumed when we got back home.

And if you give a mommy a data set, she’s going to turn it into a bar graph.

This step tested Benji’s patience, since I had to measure and draw little lines very meticulously, and I had to uniquely number each car’s data. I could’ve done it in Excel, but I felt like seeing me graph it by hand would help him understand the process better.



By the time I was 10 cars into drawing the graph, Benji was learning how to read the graph. By the time I reached Car 30, he was getting pretty good, and easily understood the longer line = car went farther. He also immediately, without my telling him, figured out that the two dots right on the X-axis were the two bulldozers that didn’t even get off the slide.

Unfortunately, lacking graph paper the size of butcher paper, I had to keep the Y-axis increments to every 3″. That made it tough for him unless the bar actually touched a Y-axis line, but he’s getting the concept of reading the graph as “it’s close to X feet.” This is tough since he’s the kid who, when told “It’s almost 6:00,” will retort, “No, it’s 5:58.”

Next up: Plotting the data in Excel and seeing if we have a normal distribution. Also, I want to borrow a fairly delicate scale and weigh each vehicle to see if weight correlated with distance traveled. Having observed all these vehicles, however, I noticed that the very farthest distance — 9’1″! — actually involved the car bouncing perhaps a dozen times after hitting the ground the first time. We measured where each vehicle came to rest, not where it first struck. For the farthest-traveling vehicles, the final stop spot usually involved at least a couple extra feet of bounces, so while a heavier vehicle might come off the slide first, it didn’t always end up landing farthest away.

This is all normal summertime activity, right?

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