Interactive, Other


The main purpose of this lab is to understand work rates and how working together affects the time it takes to complete a large task. The groups will time a “fast” worker, a “slow” worker, and will calculate the time it will take these two workers to complete the job together. Groups will then compare their calculated estimate to the actual time.


  • Mathematics > General
  • Mathematics > Algebra

Education Levels:

  • Higher Education
  • Graduate
  • Undergraduate-Upper Division
  • Undergraduate-Lower Division


intermediate algebra work rate rational



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Tom Carey

Nick Slinglend's notes on using this activity in class:

* Emphasize that the workers need to complete the task in a repetitive/ consistent way. When the team works together, make sure they are setup so they are not interfering with or running into one another.

* 12 objects and 8 to 10 feet are arbitrary choices. Just make sure that, if you change either, the task takes between 30 and 70 seconds for each worker.

* After the lab: There should be a discussion on sources of error in the computed versus observed times for the team effort. Other topics to discuss would be ranges of sensible answers for this problem and how to extend the idea to more than two people working together.

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