Paper Airplane Activity

paper-airplane – due Wednepaper-airplanesday at the start of class – to be handed in!

Paper Airplane Exploration

Today we are going to be building and flying paper airplanes! We will be using MATH to determine which airplane flew the best.

Materials (per group):

– 8 1/2 X 11 paper (one per person in the group) – small paper clips, a pencil and a ruler
– graph paper
– String (~150 cm long)

– Meterstick or tape measure

1. As a class, we will measure out and label the hallway in 50 cm increments.

2. Fold you paper airplanes in any design you feel will fly the farthest and glide the longest.

3. Tall people usually have an advantage in flying paper airplanes: they launch their planes from a greater height. To make this contest a little more fair, you won’t just measure how far your plane flies. You are going to calculate your plane’s glide ratio – the horizontal distance the plane flew divided by the launch height. The plane with the best glide ratio wins!

4. Once your planes have been folded. You will have your partner measure the distance from the ground to the top of your shoulders. Use the string to measure the distance. Use the meterstick to measure the string. This distance is your launch height, because you’ll throw your plane from about shoulder height. Write this height down on your data sheet.

5. Take your plane and your data sheet to the testing ground with the rest of the class. When told to, you will give your plane a gentle toss forward. Your goal is to have it glide smoothly and gently to the ground. to accurately measure your plane’s glide ratio, you have to throw the plane so that it never rises above your shoulder level. Experiment with your throwing techniques – some planes will fly a shorter distance the harder you throw it.

6. If your plane does not fly well, make a few adjustments (this is known as trimming your plane).

7. Try your plane again. Note where the nose of the plane lands, and mark that measurement on your data table. If your plane lands between two marks, use the meterstick to measure how far the plane flew past the first mark.

8. Test your plane three times, record the distance on your data table.


1. For each trial, divide the distance your plane flew by your launch height to get the glide ration. Round your answer to the nearest tenth. Write the results in your data table.

2. Calculate your average distance by adding the distance from all your trials and dividing the result by the number of trials. Calculate out the average glide ratio the same way.

3. Assume that the side of each square on the graph paper represents 50 cm in the real world. Draw a mark on the vertical side of the grid to show your launch height. Draw a mark on the horizontal side of your grid to show your average distance your plane flew. Connect these two marks to make a right angle triangle. The height of the triangle is your launch height. The base of the triangle is the average distance of your planes flight. The hypotenuse of the triangle shows the approximate flight path of your plane.


Distance Flown (D) (cm) ­ displacement­

Launch Height (H) (cm)

Glide Ratio (G)







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