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Simple Machines: What Is a Pulley? (Grade 3)

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Simple Machines: What Is a Pulley?

Hoist the sails! Raising a heavy sail up a tall boat mast can be hard work. However, sailors long ago learned how to make their work easier by using pulleys. A pulley is a simple machine with a grooved wheel that a rope or chain moves through. The rope carries the load, or object that needs to be moved.

There are two main types of pulleys:
1. A fixed pulley changes the direction of the force, or push or pull, that moves the load. Fixed pulleys are often used on flag poles. Pull the rope down and the flag moves up the pole.
2. A movable pulley moves up and down with the load. The rope is attached to a fixed place like a ceiling. A movable pulley needs less effort force to move the load than a fixed pulley.

Sometimes two or more pulleys are combined. A compound pulley, or block and tackle, is a system that uses more than one pulley. Compound pulleys are useful when lifting very heavy loads.

Can you figure out what type of pulley is shown in the picture?
Two types of pulleys are
  1. wheel and rope.
  2. fixed and movable.
  3. compound and block and tackle.
A pulley is similar to another simple machine, the lever. A lever has a fulcrum, or fixed point, around which a bar turns. Which part of a pulley is most like a fulcrum?
  1. the rope or chain
  2. the load or object
  3. the grooved wheel
  4. the center of the wheel
Which is another term for block and tackle?
  1. fixed pulley
  2. movable pulley
  3. compound pulley
An image of a pulley is shown. Which phase from the passage best describes the image?
Movable Pulley
  1. changes the direction of the force, or push or pull
  2. moves up and down with the load
  3. system that uses more than one pulley
Scissors are compound machines. They are made of two types of simple machines. Is a pulley one of the types of simple machines found in scissors?
  1. no
  2. yes

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