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Age Range: 14-16
Duration: 0-29 mins
  • Mathematics
  • D&T
  • Physics

Water wheel construction

Calculating the angles and lengths of components in a water wheel

In this starter activity students will use a water wheel model to determine various angles and lengths.

This is one of a set of resources developed to aid the class teaching of the secondary national curriculum, particularly KS3. It has been designed to support the delivery of key topics within mathematics and engineering.

Activity: Calculating the angles and lengths of components in a water wheel

Students will review our presentation, which explains the structure of a water wheel. Students are tasked with calculating the central angle of the water wheeling by diving 360 degrees by the number of equally spaced spokes.

Learners must then find the size of a specified angle and two sides of a shape by identifying familiar shapes within our water wheel diagram (e.g., a type of triangle).

Students can approach this in more than one way, using either trigonometry or by sketching a scale drawing. After the lesson is complete, there can be a class discussion on the accuracy and usefulness of both methods.

Download our activity overview for an introductory lesson plan on calculating angles and lengths in a water wheel.

The engineering context

Mathematical modelling is often used in manufacturing, construction, and civil engineering, where mathematical shapes and principles are used by engineers to inform design specifications, architectural drawings, and design schematics.

Suggested learning outcomes

In this activity students will learn about the angle properties of a regular polygon and an isosceles triangle. Learners will use the knowledge of trigonometry to find the length of a side and also be able to draw a scale diagram of a triangle for the purposes of construction.

Download our activity sheet and other teaching resources

The activity sheet includes teachers’ notes, useful web links, and links (where appropriate) to the national curriculum in each of the four devolved nations; England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

All activity sheets and supporting resources are free to download, and all the documents are fully editable, so you can tailor them to your class’s and your schools’ needs.

You can download our classroom lesson plan below.

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