Marble Run With an Inclined Plane

My first activity with an inclined plane was so much fun, I decided to create a second one. This time we used marbles instead of cars to experiment with the slope of an inclined plane.  This activity is easy to set up, and provides hands-on STEAM fun for early learners.   

Marble run with inclined plane


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Hands-on STEAM activities provide amazing learning opportunities: kids can help with the design of the project; kids can help with the setup; and they can have fun observing the results of marbles rolling down an inclined plane!


For this activity, you will need cardboard, tape, marbles and disposable cups.

The dimensions of the marble run will be determined by the size of the cardboard you use.

I used two pieces measuring 18 in. wide x 30 in. long (46 cm x 76 cm).

One long piece of cardboard would probably work just as well.

A bend in the middle of the run helps reduce the speed of the marble. If it rolls too quickly it is more likely to flip over the side of the track or pop out of the cup. You can observe the speed and make alterations as you do the activity.


Marble run with inclined plane

Bend the edges
of the cardboard up 2 or 3 inches (5 - 8 cm) to keep the marbles from rolling off the sides.

If you are using two pieces of cardboard, set one piece on a slant inside the other as shown in the diagram.

A long strip of tape will secure the slanted piece to the base, hold the cups in place at the end of the run, and decorate the board all at the same time.

Rest the top of the slanted cardboard on a chair or low table. We tried a small deacon's bench which is 15.5 inches (40 cm) high. We also tried a low stool which is 11 inches (28 cm) high. The lower height seemed better as it reduced the speed of the marbles, allowing them to settle into the cups without popping back out.

The process of trial and error is part of the learning through play!

Drop a marble or other small ball at the top of the inclined plane and watch it roll down to land in one of the cups.

Provide additional learning opportunities by adding numbers to the cups and varying the sizes of marbles.

Learning through play:
  • Add numbers (or letters) to the tops of the cups or to the tape at the front of the cups. Kids call out the numbers as their marbles roll into the cups.
  • Older children can "aim" for a certain number and add their scores.
  • Experiment with different sizes of marbles.
  • Experiment with the slope of the plane.
  • Race two marbles at a time.

With a few household materials, you can create an inclined plane that allows kids to discover and learn while playing. 

Visit our STEM board on Pinterest for more fun science activities for kids.


Find this activity on the Best of Kid Bloggers Posts for 2015 Pinterest board.

                                               Best of 2015 kid blogger posts


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