Has your child ever completed math or science homework and complained, “When am I going to use this?” If so, it’s good to remind them how math and science taught in the classroom can address real-word questions and problems. Practical math and science are great ways to help make abstract concepts more relatable, and thus way easier to grasp. We’ve got a fun way to re-enforce this with practical STEM activities and resources for Red Planet Day. Read on!
But what is Red Planet Day, you might ask? Red Planet Day commemorates the launch of the Spacecraft Mariner 4 on November 28, 1964. Its 228-day mission brought the spacecraft within 6,118 miles of Mars on July 14, 1965, sending us back the very first close-up photos of the red planet, and it most definitely wouldn’t have been something humanity achieved without a great exercise in practical math subjects like Algebra, Fractions, Decimals, and Geometry!
Use Algebra to weigh yourself (and everything around the house) on Mars!
If you’ve studied Algebra or Physics at school, you can easily measure how much things would weigh on Mars with a simple equation. Weight is not a representation of mass alone… It’s the Force of your mass under the Acceleration of gravity. Or equivalently in this situation, Force = Weight:
F=ma (Force = mass*acceleration) or W=ma
Isn’t that amazing? You, and everything on our planet, are subject to acceleration force! It’s what is pushing us down upon the Earth (even though you may be sitting still). But you can use F=ma to calculate a lot of other things, too, so it’s worth remembering!
Mass is a constant, whether you’re on Earth, the Moon, or anywhere else. So, you can first solve for m.
F/a = m
If you know the weight of something on Earth in Kilograms, then this is an easy calculation! Imagine you weigh 45kg on Earth. Earth’s gravity is approximately 9.8 m/s². That makes the value of your mass 4.59.
45 / 9.81 = 4.59
Now, multiply that mass value by gravitational constant (acceleration) of Mars (3.711 m/s²) and you have the weight of your item on the Red Planet! Or represent the equation in its entirety
Get more practical math in with a little help from NASA
NASA.gov has an entire series of practical math-oriented educator guides, lesson plans, and activities devoted to Mars! This collection of 24 problems and activities provides a variety of practical applications in mathematics and science concepts including proportions, analyzing graphs, features of the Martian surface and atmosphere, density, and temperature. Each one-page assignment includes background information. Be sure to check it out!
Some fun Mars facts for smaller fans:
- The planet appears red because of the amount of oxidized iron in the soil. That’s right, it’s actually rusty!
- Mars is only about half the size of Earth and only about 37% of the gravity.
- The largest shield volcano in the solar system is on Mars: Olympus Mons. Its height is 21 km and has a diameter of 600 km.
- Mars can be seen with naked eyes when it comes close to the earth. It looks like a red star in the sky.
- Mars has two moons named Deimos and Phobos. The larger one is Phobos.
- A Martian year lasts 687 days.
We hope your Red Planet Day celebrations are out of this world. Happy learning!
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