Motion Concepts: Displacement, velocity, & acceleration graphs
This activity has benefited from input through a review and suggestion process.
This activity has benefited from input from faculty educators beyond the author through a review and suggestion process as a part of an activity development workshop. Workshop participants were provided with a set of criteria against which they evaluated each others' activities. For information about the criteria used for this review, see http://serc.carleton.edu/sp/compadre/devactivities/reviewcriteria.html.
This page first made public: Jul 30, 2007
This material is replicated on a number of sites as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service Project
Students often struggle with motion concepts. These activities focus on the graphical representations of displacement, velocity, and acceleration given a number of situations of an object moving along the x-axis.
These activities are based upon asking students to determine appropriate graphical representations in a variety of settings. After an initial vote (via clickers, raising hands, etc), students should pair up and discuss before re-voting. The PhET simulation "The Moving Man," downloadable for free at http://phet.colorado.edu/web-pages/simulations-base.html, allows the instructor to setup the situation and have real-time graphs displayed as the man moves. Therefore, concepts can be demonstrated in a variety of settings during class-time. These activities are appropriate before or after similar investigations in the laboratory for all levels of students investigating motion.
Context for Use
Educational level: Conceptual physics to calculus-based physics
Setting: These concept tests can be used as a pre-lab, post-lab, or classroom activity; The activities are appropriate for small classes to large lecture hall classes.
Time required: Instructors may stream-line or expand these activities. A minimum time of 15 minutes should be allotted for these activities.
Special equipment: computer & LCD projector (note PhET does not require internet access)
Pre-requisite knowledge: Students should have had an introduction to the slope of a line, reading graphs, and motion terminology (position, displacement, velocity, & acceleration).
Description and Teaching Materials
The virtual experiment can be done with the PhET Circuit Simulator from the University of Colorado. This is available at
http://www.colorado.edu/physics/phet/simulations/cck/cck.jnlp. The simulation PhET software can be downloaded for free from http://phet.colorado.edu/web-pages/index.html and run without internet access. Because the software can be accessed for free, instructors can have students work on these activities outside of the classroom or laboratory.
Instructions on the PhET activities can be found at the websites mentioned above. The concept test questions are designed to engage students but also to allow both students and instructor to gauge understanding about motion. The concept test questions are presented within a Power Point file. Instructors may choose to add questions as time allows. (PowerPoint 199kB Jul29 07)