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Multi-Variable Relations: Stressed to the Breaking Point

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Multi-Variable Relations: Stressed to the Breaking Point

In this math lesson, learners explore the relationship between the thickness of a spaghetti bridge, the length of the bridge, and the amount of weight that can be supported by the bridge. Learners then determine the algebraic equation that best represents that pattern modeled by these three variables (thickness, length, and supported weight).

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$5 - $10 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 14 - 18

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


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Graphing calculator with overhead unit
  • Overhead projector
  • Class data chart on newsprint or blackboard
  • Cups with paper clips for hanging over the spaghetti bridges
  • Rolls of pennies
  • Handfuls of Vermicelli (thin spaghetti)
  • Balance scales (optional)
  • Stressed to the Breaking Point activity sheets


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Civil Engineering
  • Mathematics
    • Algebra
      • Equations and Inequalities
      • Patterns
      • Variables and Expressions
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Analysis
      • Data Collection
      • Data Representation
    • Measurement
    • Problem Solving
    • Reasoning and Proof
    • Representation
  • Physical Sciences
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Mass and Weight
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results

Informal Categories

  • Food and Cooking
  • Sports and Exercise


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Includes assesments for student learning

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • All Rights Reserved, PBS, ©2012

Funding Source:

  • US Department of Education


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