About Period of a Pendulum

Highly Recommended
Like all our Science Reasoning Center activities, the completion of the Period of a Pendulum activity requires that a student use provided information about a phenomenon, experiment, or data presentation to answer questions. This information is accessible by tapping on the small thumbnails found on the bottom right of every question. However, it may be considerably easier to have a printed copy of this information or to display the information in a separate browser window. You can access this information from this page

The Standards
The Period of a Pendulum activity describes three simple experiments conducted by students in order to determine the variables that affect the period of a pendulum. Each experiment is described and the results are presented in the form of a graph. Questions target a student's ability to understand the design of an experiment, to identify the effect of one variable upon another variable, to draw a conclusion that is consistent with collected data, to read values off a graph, to extrapolate beyond the range of values on a graph, and to use provided data to make a prediction about the period that would result under a given set of conditions.

Success with the activity requires some degree of understanding or proficiency with respect to ...
  • Planning and Carrying Out Investigations (Science and Engineering Practice 3.5)
    Make directional hypotheses that specify what happens to a dependent variable when an independent variable is manipulated.
  • Analyzing and Interpreting Data(Science and Engineering Practice 4.1)
    Analyze data using tools, technologies, and/or models (e.g., computational, mathematical) in order to make valid and reliable scientific claims or determine an optimal design solution.
  • Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking (Science and Engineering Practice 5.3)
    Use mathematical, computational, and/or algorithmic representations of phenomena or design solutions to describe and/or support claims and/or explanations.
  • Patterns (Crosscutting Concept 1.2)
    Empirical evidence is needed to identify patterns.
  • Cause and Effect (Crosscutting Concept 2.1)Empirical evidence is required to differentiate between cause and correlation and make claims about specific causes and effects.
  • Stability and Change (Crosscutting Concept 7.1)
    Much of science deals with constructing explanations of how things change and how they remain stable. 

While the Period of a Pendulum activity addresses the two NextGen Science and Engineering Practices and the Crosscutting Concepts above, the activity drew its greatest inspiration from ACT's College Readiness Standards for Science Reasoning. The activity consists of 46 questions organized into 14 Question Groups and spread across the three activities. All three strands (Interpretation of Data - IOD, Scientific Investigation - SIN, and Evaluation of Models, Inferences, and Experimental Results - EMI) of the College Readiness Standards are addressed in this activity. The code given for the standard includes three letters to indicate the strand and three numbers to indicate the specific standard within that strand. Higher numbers are indicative of more complex science reasoning skills. The relationship between the questions and the standards is as follows:


Complementary and Similar Resources
The following resources at The Physics Classroom website complement the Period of a Pendulum Lab Science Reasoning Activity. Teachers may find them useful for supporting students and/or as components of lesson plans and unit plans.

Physics Classroom Tutorial, Vibrations and Waves: Pendulum Motion

Physics Video Tutorial, Vibrations and Waves: Pendulum Motion

Physics Interactives, Waves and Sound: Pendulum Motion Simulation

Concept Builders, Vibrational Motion: Period and Frequency of a Pendulum

Concept Builders, Vibrational Motion: Pendulum Motion - Velocity and Force

Concept Builders, Vibrational Motion: Energy of a Pendulum

The Calculator Pad, Vibrations and Waves: Problem Set WM2