3 Puck Chuck

Type Category
Instructional Materials
Interactive Simulation , Game
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.



This interactive from PBS ZOOM Games has students play alone or head-to-head to move a “goal puck” onto a target by colliding into it with “game pucks”. Variables include the masses of the pucks and the amount of friction from various surfaces. Student-controlled variables are the force with which pucks are “whacked”, and the strength and angle of collisions with other pucks and with a “bouncy” barrier.

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Middle School
  • Grade 8
  • Grade 7
  • Grade 6
  • Grade 5
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

MS-PS2-1 Apply Newton’s Third Law to design a solution to a problem involving the motion of two colliding objects.

Clarification Statement: Examples of practical problems could include the impact of collisions between two cars, between a car and stationary objects, and between a meteor and a space vehicle.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment is limited to vertical or horizontal interactions in one dimension.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
The purpose of the game is for students to intuit solutions to the problem of whacking their goal puck into a goal by colliding game pucks with it. The game pucks themselves can also collide with each other and with a “bouncy” barrier. In the two-player mode (recommended), players must also consider, and strategize for, the motion of the other player’s pucks. This activity would work best as either an introduction to, or an assessment of, the Performance Indicator, as it is a stand-alone game and does not overtly include the exact words “Newton’s Third Law of Motion”, though the “How to Play” section explicitly tells players that both pucks will respond to an impact even if one was sitting still, because both pucks push on each other. If used as an introduction, follow-up questions can address the relationships students found between force and motion, mass and motion, and friction and motion. These can be used as a jumping-off point for a discussion of Newton’s Laws. If used as an assessment, the teacher can ask students to either describe or draw outcomes of certain angles of collisions, perhaps as a “play-by-play” of a game, with followup “sports analysis” of what worked and what didn’t work and why. Ideas for sample introductory questions may be found at Mrs. Smith’s 7th Grade Science (http://stjschoolscsmith.weebly.com/newtons-laws-of-motion.html and click on “Important Concepts”) and at Mr. Morkert’s 3 Puck chuck wiki page (http://thundermacs.ahsd25.wikispaces.net/Three+Puck+Chuck). It is NOT recommended that “student success” at the game be corresponded to understanding of the Performance Expectation, as students may be able to succeed without any knowledge of “why”, and/or may understand the concepts well, but have difficulty with hand/eye coordination and “making the game do what they want”.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this science and engineering practice, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
The “How to Play” tutorials lay out the variables one at a time - mass, force, friction, collisions - but do not refer to them as variables. The teacher would have to make the connection overt, or ask the students to define what the independent and dependent variables are in the game. The purpose of the “How to Play” tutorials is for students to explore how these variables affect the motion of their puck. “Asking questions” is here interpreted loosely, as in “How can I make the puck do what I want?”.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
The game is set up so as to show this happening when pucks collide. The connection may not at first be clear to students, especially if the game is used as an introduction, because pucks of different masses may be involved in one collision. The different distances that these pucks move may cause the misconception that each puck felt a different amount of force. If using the game as an introduction, teachers should make sure to discuss this point with students. If used as an assessment, teachers should ask students to explain why the pucks didn’t always travel the same distance.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Students are considering a variety of causes (“whack” force, mass, friction, collision force) that will combine to produce the effect they want (getting their game puck into the goal, or preventing their opponent from doing so). The language of cause and effect is not present in the game, nor is the idea overt that students will be predicting what will happen before they make their move. Teachers will need to make the vocabulary connection, and to emphasize the need for the students to “strategize” (predict) rather than just randomly click on things.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: The “spirit of NGSS” is strong in that students are learning by experiencing a phenomenon. The connection to the Performance Indicator is clear, and the connection to the Disciplinary Core Idea is an exact match. The game is a strong match for the subtopic within “Asking Questions and Defining Problems”, more so than for the Performance Indicator’s “Designing Solutions”, since students do not necessarily need to overtly consider Newton’s Laws in order to achieve the goal of the game. The cross-cutting standard of Cause and Effect can be brought into play with a short discussion or specific question from the teacher.

  • Instructional Supports: This is an interactive simulation (game), not a lesson. It does offer students an engaging tool for exploring the physics of collisions, cause and effect, and defining problems.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: This simulation does not include any supporting information for teachers. The two teachers’ websites linked in the “Tips for the Performance Indicators” may give ideas for formative assessments and check-ins. As mentioned above, it is NOT recommended that “student success” at the game be corresponded to understanding of the Performance Expectation.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: The pucks in the game respond directly to user input, in a way that is consistent with physical laws. The students have individual control over masses, forces and angles of shots. The purpose of the game is directly related to students’ understanding forces and collisions. The game is appealing and has a low entry level. The game ran easily on a MacBook and a MacBook Air. It does not seem to require Java or Flash to run.