Information for Teachers and Parents Back to Forces

This page contains information to help teachers and parents use this activity in class or at home. To return to the activity, click the button on the top right corner of the page.

Table of Contents

  1. Lesson Overview
  2. Hypertext Outline of Lesson
  3. Objectives
  4. Time Allotment
  5. NCTM Process Standards
  6. NCTM Content Standards
  7. Aeronautics Content
  8. Prerequisite Skills
  9. Vocabulary
  10. Materials
  11. Teacher Tips
  12. Additional Activities
  13. Accessibility

I. Lesson Overview

The Forces of Flight Department explains and demonstrates the four forces of flight-- lift, drag, thrust and weight--and how these forces interact when a plane flies. Within each force explanation, students interact by answering questions and participating in suggested hands-on activities relating to that force. At the end of the lesson, students participate in two interactive activities. In the first, students learn what a wind tunnel is and how it works. They are then able to place different planes and objects in the wind tunnel and see the accompanying lift and drag values created by the simulated flight. In the second activity, students interpret a bar graph depicting the amount of each force in relation to each other and choose the correct plane movement (going up, going down, level flight, etc.) represented by those forces.

II. Hypertext Outline of Lesson

This purpose of this outline is to help you navigate to specific parts of the lesson without having to go through every page. The section titles link to the first pages of that section, and the numbers in parentheses refer to the page number where that section starts.

III. Objectives

At the end of this lesson, students will:

IV. Time Allotment

45-70 minutes for entire activity, depending on reading level of students in group.

V. NCTM Process Standards

Standard 1: Mathematics as Problem Solving

Standard 2: Mathematics as Communication

Standard 3: Mathematics as Reasoning

Standard 4: Mathematical Connections

VI. NCTM Content Standards

Standard 5: Number and Number Relationships

Standard 8: Patterns and Functions

Standard 9: Algebra

Standard 10: Statistics

VII. Aeronautics Content

VIII. Prerequisite Skills

IX. Vocabulary

Vocabulary words are linked to the activity pages on which they're defined.

X. Materials

For the Paper Blowing Activity:

For the Paper Dropping Activity:

XI. Teacher Tips

This lesson can be completed individually but will move faster and be more fun if two or more people work together. The lesson can be done in under an hour if the students are good readers. There are several good breaking places in this lesson--after either of the four forces descriptions or at the beginning of the ending activities.

Pair up students if someone is unable to hold or manipulate objects. Use a blow drier hooked up to a switch if a student is unable to sustain a blow in the hands-on activity for lift. The crumpled/flat paper hands-on activity for drag can be adapted by assisting the individual to push items off their wheelchair tray or a table.

XII. Additional Activities

1. Use paper airplanes of different sizes, different weights and with "tails" attached (provides increased drag) to demonstrate and experiment with the four forces covered in this lesson.

2. Have students come up with examples outside of aeronautics where lift, drag, thrust or weight are involved.

Do you have ideas for other activities to use with this activity? Send your suggestions to us at

XIII. Accessibility

All the pages maintain a consistent grid of 6 buttons along the bottom of the page, which should be accessible through a ClickIt! overlay for IntelliKeys. For more information on using assistive technology, please refer to the document "Making PlaneMath Accessible" on the main PlaneMath parent/teacher page.

Go Back Return to the top of the page