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In this math lesson, learners explore the real world meaning of slope. Learners conduct a balloon experiment in which they measure the circumference and flight time of deflating balloons. Then, learners use spreadsheets and graphs to find the relationships between the variables in the experiment. Finally, learners analyze the slopes of the linear relationships and interpret the meaning of their graphs. [Activity is publicly available through a web crawler capture on Archive.org.]

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Balloons (12" diameter) with small stems
  • Calipers or alternate set-up for measuring diameter of inflated balloons
  • Tape measures
  • Stopwatches
  • Computer/pencil and paper for recording data


  • Mathematics
    • Algebra
      • Equations and Inequalities
      • Variables and Expressions
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Analysis
      • Data Collection
      • Data Representation
      • Probability
    • Geometry
      • Plane Geometry
    • Measurement
      • Circles
      • Rate
    • Reasoning and Proof
    • Representation
  • The Nature of Technology
    • The Design Process
      • Problem Solving
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • All rights reserved, PBS, 2012

Funding Source:

  • US Department of Education