Getting Started (5 min)
- Journal: If I flip a coin 10 times, is it possible to predict exactly how many times it will come up heads? Why or why not?
- A weather forecaster presented a forecast with a 20% chance of precipitation the next day. The next day it rained. Explain how the forecast may still have been correct.
Introduction to Content (10 min)
Choose one of the simulations at Phet simulations and answer the following.
- What models are being used?
- What details are included?
- What details are omitted?
- What does the simulation seem to show?
- How does the simulation repeat and interact when processing information to allow users to gain insight and knowledge about data.
View these two videos
Bill Nye and a scaled model of the solar system (4:17)
Computer Generated Model of a Solar System (2:41)
Guided Activities (30 min)
Students create a journal entry responding to these two questions:
- What was a main idea presented by each video?
- What aspect(s) of the models helped make that point?
Students discuss each of the following with elbow partners then groups.
- How do the models in these videos depend on computing?
- Consider the strengths and weaknesses of each model. What understanding can be better drawn from the first model and what understanding can better be drawn from the second?
- What questions could be answered using these two models?
- How does the use of digital data approximate real-world analog data? (point out that this is another example of abstraction.)
From each group students share at least one response to each prompt.
Define and Identify Models and Simulations [10 min]
Examples of models (do not need to show the entire videos for student understanding):
- Watch this video of a human heart simulation: Multi-scale Multi-physics Heart Simulator UT-Heart (5:15) (watch up to 2:00; the rest is interesting but not necessary).
- What’s an advantage to having so many data points? What about a disadvantage? (A supercomputer is necessary to run the simulation. Again, point out that this is an abstraction because the digital data is representing what is in the real world)
- How can you test a parachute to be used on Mars? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_jOzxEOlDJg (1:11)? Describe the physical test. Before that test, they create models and simulate on the computer - why? (It is very costly to run a test and to create an actual parachute. First be sure an idea passes a simulated test, then build it.)
Examples of Simulations:
Have students find and share simulations in each of the following:
- Financial (e.g., stock market forecasting)
- Weather (e.g., predicting the path of hurricanes)
- Space (e.g., predicting the path of an asteroid)
- Sports (e.g., predicting championships)
Use Models and Simulations to Refine Questions [20 min]
- Select one of the simulations explored today.
- Write a question the simulation could help answer.
- Run the simulation and write an answer to your question.
- Exchange your results with your elbow partner.
- Refine your elbow partners question
- Write an answer to the new question.
Wrap Up (5 min)
Journal: Have students record the definitions (in their own words) of the vocabulary used in this lesson: probability, model, simulation, and hypothesis.