<img src="https://d5nxst8fruw4z.cloudfront.net/atrk.gif?account=iA1Pi1a8Dy00ym" style="display:none" height="1" width="1" alt="" />
Dismiss
Skip Navigation

Graphing Motion

Use the slope of a graph to determine instantaneous velocity or acceleration for an object.

Atoms Practice
Estimated11 minsto complete
%
Progress
Practice Graphing Motion
Practice
Progress
Estimated11 minsto complete
%
Practice Now
Graphing Motion

Students will learn how to graph motion vs time. Specifically students will learn how to take the slope of a graph and relate that to the instantaneous velocity or acceleration for position or velocity graphs, respectively. Finally students will learn how to take the area of a velocity vs time graph in order to calculate the displacement.

Key Equations

For a graph of position vs. time. The slope is the rise over the run, where the rise is the displacement and the run is the time. thus,

Slope = \begin{align*}v_{avg} = \frac{\Delta x}{\Delta t}\end{align*}vavg=ΔxΔt

Note: Slope of the tangent line for a particular point in time = the instantaneous velocity

For a graph of velocity vs. time. The slope is the rise over the run, where the rise is the change in velocity and the run is the time. thus,

Slope = \begin{align*}a_{avg} = \frac{\Delta v}{\Delta t}\end{align*}

Note: Slope of the tangent line for a particular point in time = the instantaneous acceleration

Guidance
  • One must first read a graph correctly. For example on a position vs. time graph (thus the position is graphed on the y-axis and the time on the x-axis) for a given a data point, go straight down from it to get the time and straight across to get the position.
  • If there is constant acceleration the graph \begin{align*}x\end{align*} vs. \begin{align*}t\end{align*} produces a parabola. The slope of the \begin{align*}x\end{align*} vs. \begin{align*}t\end{align*} graph equals the instantaneous velocity. The slope of a \begin{align*}v\end{align*} vs. \begin{align*}t\end{align*} graph equals the acceleration.
  • The slope of the graph \begin{align*}v\end{align*} vs. \begin{align*}t\end{align*} can be used to find acceleration; the area of the graph \begin{align*}v\end{align*} vs. \begin{align*}t\end{align*} can be used to find displacement. Welcome to calculus!

What is a Graph

Watch this Explanation

Time for Practice

Use the Moving Man Applet to assist in this Practice.

  1. The position graph below is of the movement of a fast turtle who can turn on a dime. a. Sketch the velocity vs. time graph of the turtle below. b. Explain what the turtle is doing (including both speed and direction) from: i) 0-2s. ii) 2-3s. iii) 3-4s. c. How much distance has the turtle covered after 4s?\begin{align*}{\;}\end{align*} d. What is the turtle’s displacement after 4s? \begin{align*}{\;}\end{align*}
  2. Draw the position vs. time graph that corresponds to the velocity vs. time graph below. You may assume a starting position \begin{align*}x_0 = 0\end{align*}. Label the \begin{align*}y-\end{align*}axis with appropriate values.
  3. The following velocity-time graph represents 10 seconds of actress Halle Berry’s drive to work (it’s a rough morning).

a. Fill in the tables below – remember that displacement and position are not the same thing!

Instantaneous Time (s) Position (m)
Interval (s) Displacement (m) Acceleration\begin{align*}(m/s^2)\end{align*} 0 sec 0 m
0-2 sec
2 sec
2-4 sec
4 sec
4-5 sec
5 sec
5-9 sec
9 sec
9-10 sec
10 sec

b. On the axes below, draw an acceleration-time graph for the car trip. Include numbers on your acceleration axis.

c. On the axes below, draw a position-time graph for the car trip. Include numbers on your position axis. Be sure to note that some sections of this graph are linear and some curve – why?

  1. Two cars are drag racing down El Camino. At time \begin{align*}t = 0\end{align*}, the yellow Maserati starts from rest and accelerates at \begin{align*}10 \ m/s^2\end{align*}. As it starts to move it’s passed by a ’63 Chevy Nova (cherry red) traveling at a constant velocity of 30 m/s. a. On the axes below, show a line for each car representing its speed as a function of time. Label each line. b. At what time will the two cars have the same speed (use your graph)? \begin{align*}{\;}\end{align*} c. On the axes below, draw a line (or curve) for each car representing its position as a function of time. Label each curve. d. At what time would the two cars meet (other than at the start)? \begin{align*}{\;}\end{align*}

Answers:

1c. 25 m

1d. -5 m

2. discuss in class

3. discuss in class

4b. 3 sec

4d. 6 sec

Image Attributions

Explore More

Sign in to explore more, including practice questions and solutions for Graphing Motion.
Please wait...
Please wait...

Original text