Motion graphs

Students should know that the motion of an object can be represented and analysed graphically. They should be able to draw and interpret both distance-time and velocity-time graphs. Some of the conceptual challenges in this topic are:

  • Some students fail to grasp the distinction between velocity and acceleration – to them it’s simply ‘motion’.
  • Acceleration is not simple idea: it is the rate of change of velocity, and velocity itself is the rate a change of distance. (acceleration the rate of change of a rate of change).
  • It can be difficult to connect a static image (graph) with a dynamic process (motion graph).
  • Drawing the graphs themselves can be a challenge with some students struggling to select correct scales and calculate areas under graphs and gradients.
  • If students are not confident with the difference between speed and velocity then this can cause some confusion.

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