Rolling with Ramps

Children will experiment with ramps and vehicles with wheels.

Birds Nest

Lesson Objective

Children will experiment with vehicles and ramps to discover how the height of a ramp affects the speed and traveling distance of a vehicle with wheels.


What You'll Need

  • Variety of toy vehicles with wheels – at least one per child
  • 3 pieces of strong cardboard – 3” x 1’ , 3” x 2’ , 3” x 3’ (to make ramps)
  • Marker
  • Chart paper – 2 sheets
  • 12 large blocks of the same size
  • Tape

What To Do

Note: Before beginning this experiment, make three ramps by taping each strip of cardboard to one of the blocks, raising each ramp the height of one block. Identify the ramps by writing 12 and 3 on the cardboard.

  1. Tell the children they are going to experiment with ramps and vehicles with wheels. They are going to test these ramps to see which one allows the vehicles to travel the furthest and go the fastest.
  2. On a sheet of chart paper, draw three columns to keep tallies for each ramp.
  3. Share the toy vehicles and let the children play with them.
  4. One at a time, have each child select a vehicle and push it across the floor to see how far it rolls. Have the children discuss each vehicle, describing its color, shape, size, and how far it rolled.
  5. Ask the children about the movement of the vehicles (see Did You Know?).
  6. Show the children the ramps. Tell them they are going to use the ramps with blocks to create an incline, or a ramp. Then they are going to test their vehicles to see which ramp lets the vehicles go the fastest and the furthest.
  7. Have the children make predictions about which ramp will make their vehicles travel the furthest and why. Chart their predictions.
  8. One at a time, have the children roll their vehicles down each one of the ramps. Use tape to mark where the vehicle stops. Keep tallies in the columns that you drew on the chart paper, noting which ramp allowed the vehicles to travel the furthest. Ask questions about the experiment (see Guiding Student Inquiry).
  9. Try the experiment again, this time adding another block to each ramp.
  10. Let the children experiment further with the ramps, adding blocks to the ramps to raise them higher.

Guiding Student Inquiry

  • Did some of the vehicles roll faster? Why?
  • Which ramp let the vehicles go the fastest?
  • Why did that ramp let them go faster?
  • Explain why some of the ramps allowed the vehicles to roll further than the other ramps did.
  • Explain why the vehicles traveled shorter distances with some ramps.
  • Look at the vehicles that traveled short distances. Describe how they are different. Why didn’t they roll as far?
  • Describe how we could make the vehicles roll further.

Explore, Extend & Integrate

  • Provide cardboard ramps of different lengths and put them in the block area. Encourage the children to compare the different ramps and experiment with them. Have the children continue to experiment with inclines by adding blocks to their ramps. Make sure that they have plenty of toy vehicles to use.
  • Let the children take some toy cars or other toy vehicles out to the playground. Use the slide as a ramp and compare how fast or how far each one goes. Experiment with putting sand, leaves, twigs, or dirt on the slide before they roll the cars.

Check for Children’s Understanding

  • Could children make predictions about how far their vehicles would go?
  • Could children test their vehicles to see how far they would roll?
  • Could children describe why the vehicles rolled further with the higher ramps?
  • Was each child able to explain what caused the vehicles to go faster?


Did You Know?

A ramp is a surface with an incline. All vehicles with wheels roll easily down ramps due to gravity. The height of a ramp affects how far a vehicle with wheels will go and how fast the vehicle will travel. For example, the higher the ramp, the faster and further a vehicle will go.

Things roll easily if they have curved sides without sharp edges. Round or circular things (like balls and wheels) roll very easily. When circular or round things are on a hill or a slanted surface, they roll because of the force of gravity. Many transportation vehicles use ramps to travel on roads. Ramps are found on highways and allow cars to pass over other roads without crossing any other traffic on those roads.

Vocabulary: Child-Friendly Definitions

  • roll — to move forward by turning over and over.
  • push — to exert pressure against something in order to move it away from you.
  • ramp — a sloping platform that connects two different levels.
  • incline — a line that goes up or down at an angle from a flat surface.
  • further — a longer distance.
  • vehicle — a machine used to carry and move people or things; for example, a car, a truck, or a bus.

Lesson Tips

  • Give the children paper and crayons so they can document their observations.
  • This lesson involves a lot of action and language. Some children may need more time and experiences to process and understand the concepts that are being explored.


  • Ramps and Wedges by Chris Oxlade
  • Roll, Slope, and Slide: A Book About Ramps by Michael Dahl
  • Ramps (Simple Machines) by Kay Manolis
  • Ramps and Wedges by Sian Smith

Home School Resources

Home educators: use these printable lesson PDFs to teach this lesson to your home schoolers. They're available in English and Spanish.

Home/School Connections

Las Conexiones a la Casa

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Content Provided By

Common Core State Standards Initiative – These lessons are aligned with the Common Core State Standards ("CCSS"). The CCSS provide a consistent, clear understanding of the concepts and skills children are expected to learn and guide teachers to provide their students with opportunities to gain these important skills and foundational knowledge [1]. Visit the CCSS