Elasticity and the Role of Women in Mathematics

Created by By Amanda Perri & Melody Mazloom
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Relates to junior and intermediate curriculum requirements around social justice and antidiscriminatory


To educate students about accomplished female Mathematicians, specifically Sophie Germain, the history of Women in Mathematics, and to familiarize them with her work on elasticity


  • Elastic or spring powered toy, such as a plane or a wind-up toy
  • 3 gummy worms per student
  • Form for recording data
  • Rulers
  • Elastic bands (thicker variety is better)
  • Scissors
  • Paper to put on the floor so you can eat the gummy worms


  • Talk about Sophie Germain, her life, the context of the time she lived in (Appendix A)


  •  Demonstrate the use of the elastic powered toy plane/other toy
  • Ask students: How do you think this works?
    • How they think it works?
    • Where does the energy come from?
    • How is it stored?
  • Explain about elasticity: Source -HowStuffWorks.com (Appendix B)


  • Describe goal of activity: Your goal is to use your knowledge to determine the elasticity of a gummy worm in comparison to an elastic band.
  • From the rubber band, cut a section that is the same length as a gummy worm.
  • Place a gummy worm along the edge of a ruler. Measure the worm to the nearest 0.1 mm. Record this as the starting length in a Length Data table like the one shown (Appendix C).
  • Stretch the gummy worm as far as possible without breaking it, and record the greatest length as the stretched length.
  • Release the gummy worm, wait for it to stop contracting, and again measure its length. Record
    this as the final length.
  • Determine any change in length by finding the absolute difference between the starting and final lengths. This is done by subtracting the smaller value from the larger one.
  • Repeat steps 2 to 5 with the remaining gummy worms and the section of rubber band.
  • Discuss results. Questions to ask:
    • What happened, what did you observe?
  • Explain why this is important and relevant today and how elastics are used in society (Appendix D).

Possible Extensions

  • In a classroom setting, you could experiment with heating and cooling down the substances and seeing what happens.

*Download the lesson to see all appendices.