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Speed and distance: It’s a drag Capability: Use evidence NoS achievement aims: Investigating in science Contextual strands: Physical world Level : 5

L51, Scootle

This resource illustrates how an interactive model from Scootle can be adapted to provide opportunities for students to strengthen their capability to use evidence to support ideas in the context of science.

Curriculum Aims and AOs

The Nature of Science strand


Achievement objective relevant to this resource

Investigating in science

Carry out science investigations using a variety of approaches: classifying and identifying, pattern seeking, exploring, investigating models, fair testing, making things, or developing systems.


  • Develop and carry out more complex investigations.
  • Show an increasing awareness of the complexity of working scientifically, including recognition of multiple variables.

Physical World


Achievement objective relevant to this resource

Physical inquiry and physics concepts

Explore and investigate physical phenomena in everyday situations.


Identify and describe patterns associated with physical phenomena found in simply everyday situations involving movement.

Learning focus

Students make predictions and systematically gather evidence to test them.

Learning activity

This resource allows students to investigate the braking efficiency of cars and trucks by testing stopping distances under conditions they partially control. The simulation can be used to compare effects of vehicle type, tyres, road surface and weather conditions. Student can choose their driving speed in different conditions, then apply the brakes and compare stopping distances. They can make predictions and investigate relationships between friction, tyre type or driver fatigue and stopping distances.

Adapting the resource

First, allow students to explore the interactive and ask them to take particular notice of the many variables.Now encourage them to make specific predictions about stopping distances under different combinations of conditions and gather evidence to support or refute these. As well as thinking about which variables to alter they will need to think about which ones to keep the same. There are many possible predictions, some more complex than others. Examples could be:

  • All vehicles will take a longer stopping distance if their tyres are bald.
  • The loaded truck will go further than any other vehicle when it brakes, at any driving speed.  
  • Doubling the speed of any vehicle will more than double its stopping distance.

If students claim a prediction they made is correct, they should be able to back this up with data. This means they will need to devise ways of systematically collecting data from each trial that they run during their investigation.

What’s important here?

Understanding that scientists systematically gather the evidence needed to check their predictions is an important aspect of developing scientific literacy.  

Developing an appreciation of what counts as evidence in science supports students to become scientifically literate, i.e., to participate as critical, informed, and responsible citizens in a society in which science plays a significant role. (This is the purpose of science in NZC.)

What are we looking for?

Do students make appropriate use of relevant evidence to support or refute their predictions?

Opportunities to learn at different curriculum levels

For suggestions about adapting tasks in ways that allow students to show progress in using evidence to support ideas see Progressions .

Exploring further

There are other similar resources in Scootle :

Give me a brake (L52) is an interactive resource that investigates braking efficiency of cars and trucks by testing stopping distances under controlled conditions and manipulating variables. 

Fair test (L540) is an interactive resource that investigates the effects of different variables on the growth of lettuces, peas and tomatoes.

Other resources for this capability

Key words

physical inquiry, friction