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Fast car

  • GCSE
  • Popular Activity
  • Topical

Type: Activity
Learning Strategy: Data work
Topic: Graphing motion

Fast cars fire up interest even for those who can't afford them. Fast talking TV presenters tempt us with terminology and hype which rolls off their tongues like treacle. But does it make any sense? Here's a chance for pupils to turn Top Gear researcher and hone their skills in interpreting graphs to write a car review for TV.

14-16 How Science Works:
14-16 How Science Works: data, evidence, theories and explanations
Communication skills
3c Present information, develop an argument and draw a conclusion, using scientific,

Published: 15th May 2007
Reviews & Comments: 11

Learning objectives

Students will
• interpret graphs and use them to compare cars
• distinguish between statements that are backed up with evidence and those that are purely opinion.

Try the activity

You will need Acrobat Reader installed to open the activity sheets.

14-16 How Science Works: data, evidence, theories and explanations
Communication skills
3c Present information, develop an argument and draw a conclusion, using scientific, technical and mathematical language, conventions and symbols and ICT tools.

See downloadable teachers notes for details of individual GCSE specifications.

Running the activity

Display page 1, which includes images of a new fast car and descriptions that might come from an enthusiastic reviewer on a TV programme like Top Gear. What makes a car desirable?

Page 2 contains definitions of some of the terms used. Explain that they will be using these shortly to make their own car reviews and that you will return to this screen later when they are doing that.

With page 3 on the screen, as a class or group activity, students match graphs to cars.
There are three pairs of graphs: speed against time (for the car accelerating flat-out); power against engine speed (in revs - revolutions per minute); torque against engine speed. Students decide which car (sporty or ordinary diesel) goes with each graph.

Pages 4-9 are large versions of the graphs, one set for each group. Groups use the graphs to discuss ideas to go into a script for a "Top Gear" presenter to review each of the cars. This could be a structured group activity: students take it in turns to make a descriptive or hyped up statement about one or both cars. e.g. The diesel car is really powerful at low engine speed OR This is a car that will turn a few heads. After each statement the other members of the group say if they think the graphs or common sense agree with the statement. Encourage the students to distinguish between statements that are backed up with evidence and those that are purely opinion.

Students could be guided to marking brake horsepower : 100bhp, 200bhp etc on their graphs at about 75kW, 150kW etc.

Page 10 is a writing frame for students write their own Top Gear type review about one or both of the cars. Within the group they take it in turns to present their scripts.

As a plenary invite two or three students to act out their script as a Top Gear presenter. Invite others to comment on whether the presentation was consistent with the evidence in the graphs.

Extension – ask students to research and compare the environmental impact of the two cars.

News links

The new BMW reviewed in detail
What car?
Reviews, data and video clips on lots of makes and models
Horsepower (746W) and brake horsepower
Top Gear
car road tests

Reviews & Comments

Write your online review to share your feedback and classroom tips with other teachers. How well does it work, how engaging is it, how did you use it, and how could it be improved?

Fast car review

Sep 12th, 2011

5 Star

Fantastic resource! Thanks and keep up the superb work.

Reviewer: Carol Smith


Feb 16th, 2011

5 Star

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Reviewer: johnny pang


Jan 26th, 2011

5 Star

Just been put onto this site by a colleague,
excellent stuff guys, keep up the good work

Reviewer: colm nolan

Newton Metres

Oct 20th, 2010

4 Star

Fast Cars
Great resource but could you change the torque units on the graphs to read Nm instead of nm (nanometres) please?

Reviewer: Nick Wiffen

Fast Car

Mar 30th, 2009

5 Star

This was an awsome activity for my enrichment year 9 class. Much better than what I usually get them to do. It challenged them without overwhelming them. I used a tip from another subscriber and played a Top Gear clip before hand to get them hooked. Well done on an excellent resource.

Reviewer: Nicky Wallace

Fast car

Mar 18th, 2008

4 Star

Ran this with year 11 as a summary to lesson to work done on velocity/time and distance time graphs. On the whole it engauged the boys at abilities with the role of graphs and making sense of data. The girls in the lower ability groups did not like it because it was about cars. It was a nice 20minute actvity that brought together the How Science is used in a straight foward way

Reviewer: Patrick Tarpey

fast cars

Sep 30th, 2007

3 Star

Engagement good with lower ability boys.
Focus rather too much on engine performance than more dorect link to curriculum points.
Would it be worth developing something relating to crash survival from structure/air bags etc?

Reviewer: Bernie Norbury

Fast Cars

Jun 13th, 2007

4 Star

Ran this with a high ability year 9 class - they enjoyed it. Especially as we watched a Top-gear review first. Produced powerpoint presentations for homework - next time I'll get them to make videos!

Reviewer: Nicola Percy

Possible Mistake

Jun 2nd, 2007

3 Star

Hi I'm not the best at maths but according to some other sources there is 745W in 1HP. Surely this would mean that there is 0.745kW in 1HP making the graphs on p4 and 5 of the pdf wrong as well?

Does anyone agree?

Reviewer: Jack Whitehead

Fast Cars

May 23rd, 2007

5 Star

Great, just fits in so well with my 21st Century science work. Well done

Reviewer: David Ford

top trumps

May 23rd, 2007

4 Star

i used this activity with a high ability ks3 class after their ks3 exams. I've never seen the boys so enthusiastic!! Ill definitely use this activity again!!

Reviewer: Judith Buick

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