Physics Tug of War

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Learners set up books with rubber bands stretched between the books. When two identical books are stretched apart and released, they move back toward each other an equal distance. When two different masses of books are used, the lighter one moves further since it requires less force to move. Learners can see this as an application of Newton's second law- the force required to move an object is proportional to the mass of the object. Resource includes suggestions for assessment.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
30 to 45 minutes

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

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 14

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


Materials List (per group of students)

  • 15-20 extra large, heavy paper clips
  • 6-7 6" rubber bands (or 10-15 small rubbe rbands)
  • 3 identical hardcover books each about ½ inch thick
  • 1 yardstick
  • masking tape (optional; class may share)
  • copies of Physics Tug of War Worksheet


  • Mathematics
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Analysis
      • Data Collection
    • Measurement
      • Units of Measurement
  • Physical Sciences
    • Motion and Forces
      • Momentum and Velocity
      • Acceleration
      • Newton's Laws
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Rutkowski, Tom ; Conner, Alex ; Hill, Geoffrey ; Schaefer Zarske, Malinda ; Yowell, Janet

Source Collection

  • TeachEngineering


  • All rights reserved, Regents of the University of Colorado, 2004

Funding Sources:

  • National Science Foundation, 0226322
  • Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE)
  • U.S. Department of Education