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The Baseball and Air

Subject Area: Algebra I

Grade Level: 8 - 10

National Mathematics Standards:

  • Represent and analyze relationships using tables, verbal rules, equations, and graphs.
  • Make and test conjectures.
  • Express mathematical ideas orally and in writing. 

National Technology Standards:

  • Technology research tools: Use content-specific tools, software and simulations (e.g., environmental probes, graphing calculators, exploratory environments, Web tools) to support learning and research; select and use appropriate tools and technology resources to accomplish a variety of tasks and solve problems.
  • Problem-Solving and Decision-Making Tools - Routinely and efficiently use on-line information resources to meet needs for collaboration, research, publications, communications, and productivity.


After reading the explanation given below, use CurveBall to complete the activity to determine how the speed of airstreams changes in relation to changes in the distance of the airstream from the center of the baseball.

CurveBall is an interactive simulation software package that examines the aerodynamics of throwing a big league curve ball. As you change parameters such as speed, rotation on the ball, release point and angle, and atmospheric conditions, the software calculates the side force on the ball and the resulting trajectory. The package was created at the NASA Glenn Research Center.

CurveBall is a Java applet program that executes inside the browser of your computer. It is available on the World Wide Web at You can also download the program to run off-line.

Shown below is a screen shot from the program's controls and displays. You may change the values of the variables by using the slider or the input box on the left of the slider.

To use the slider:

  1. Click the mouse pointer on the arrows at the ends of the slider.
  2. Click the mouse pointer anywhere between the slider and the arrow.
  3. Drag the slider with the mouse.

To use the input box:

Simply select the value in the input box, key in the new value, and press Enter or Tab when finished. The button on the slider will move corresponding to the value typed in the box.

Image of FoilSim Interface

To begin the problem, click on The Baseball and Air.


You, or you and your partner(s), will be evaluated on the feasibility or accuracy of your answers.


You will be able to use CurveBall to complete the activity to determine the relationship between the airstreams and their distance from the center of the baseball by completing a chart and graphing and interpreting the results.

Submitted by: Dalette Dawson, Brunswick High School, Brunswick, Ohio.

Related Pages:
Lesson Index
Aerodynamics Index


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Editor: Tom Benson
NASA Official: Tom Benson
Last Updated: Thu, May 13 02:38:38 PM EDT 2021

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