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Curveball vs. Fastball

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Subject Area: Algebra I

Grade Level: 9-10

National Mathematics Standards:  

  • Represent and analyze relationships using tables, verbal rules, equations, and graphs.
  • Make and test conjectures.

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:
  1. To show graphically the relationship between the release point and the final position of curveballs and fastballs thrown by both right and left handers given a constant speed.
  2. To explain the relationships illustrated by the graphs of the data collected from the CurveBall exercise.

CurveBall is an interactive simulation 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 simulation was created at the NASA Glenn Research Center.

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 Curveball vs. Fastball.


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


You will be able to use FoilSim to complete the activity by producing several graphs to compare the trajectories of curveballs and fastballs.

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

Related Pages:
Lesson Index
Aerodynamics Index


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Editor: Kelly Sands
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Last Updated: Tue, Aug 24 04:41:59 PM EDT 2021
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