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written by Tom Henderson
This seven-part resource is an excellent introduction to the characteristics of projectile motion and how projectiles are described numerically.  Through in-depth explanations and animations, it explores vertical acceleration and explains why there are no horizontal forces acting upon projectiles, a common student misconception.  The last two sections are devoted to problem solving.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Classical Mechanics
- Motion in Two Dimensions
= Projectile Motion
- High School
- Middle School
- Lower Undergraduate
- Instructional Material
= Problem/Problem Set
= Tutorial
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© 1996 The Physics Classroom
motion in two dimensions, parabolic trajectory, projectile motion, trajectory
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created January 18, 2007 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
January 13, 2014 by Caroline Hall
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when Cataloged:
December 12, 2004
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Next Generation Science Standards

Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions (HS-PS2)

Students who demonstrate understanding can: (9-12)
  • Analyze data to support the claim that Newton's second law of motion describes the mathematical relationship among the net force on a macroscopic object, its mass, and its acceleration. (HS-PS2-1)

Disciplinary Core Ideas (K-12)

Forces and Motion (PS2.A)
  • Newton's second law accurately predicts changes in the motion of macroscopic objects. (9-12)

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

4. The Physical Setting

4B. The Earth
  • 6-8: 4B/M3. Everything on or anywhere near the earth is pulled toward the earth's center by gravitational force.
4E. Energy Transformations
  • 9-12: 4E/H9. Many forms of energy can be considered to be either kinetic energy, which is the energy of motion, or potential energy, which depends on the separation between mutually attracting or repelling objects.
4F. Motion
  • 9-12: 4F/H8. Any object maintains a constant speed and direction of motion unless an unbalanced outside force acts on it.

9. The Mathematical World

9B. Symbolic Relationships
  • 6-8: 9B/M3. Graphs can show a variety of possible relationships between two variables. As one variable increases uniformly, the other may do one of the following: increase or decrease steadily, increase or decrease faster and faster, get closer and closer to some limiting value, reach some intermediate maximum or minimum, alternately increase and decrease, increase or decrease in steps, or do something different from any of these.

Common Core State Standards for Mathematics Alignments

High School — Functions (9-12)

Interpreting Functions (9-12)
  • F-IF.4 For a function that models a relationship between two quantities, interpret key features of graphs and tables in terms of the quantities, and sketch graphs showing key features given a verbal description of the relationship.?
  • F-IF.6 Calculate and interpret the average rate of change of a function (presented symbolically or as a table) over a specified interval. Estimate the rate of change from a graph.
  • F-IF.7.a Graph linear and quadratic functions and show intercepts, maxima, and minima.
  • F-IF.7.b Graph square root, cube root, and piecewise-defined functions, including step functions and absolute value functions.
Linear, Quadratic, and Exponential Models? (9-12)
  • F-LE.1.c Recognize situations in which a quantity grows or decays by a constant percent rate per unit interval relative to another.
  • F-LE.5 Interpret the parameters in a linear or exponential function in terms of a context.
Trigonometric Functions (9-12)
  • F-TF.3 (+) Use special triangles to determine geometrically the values of sine, cosine, tangent for ?/3, ?/4 and ?/6, and use the unit circle to express the values of sine, cosine, and tangent for ?—x, ?+x, and 2?—x in terms of their values for x, where x is any real number.

Common Core State Reading Standards for Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects 6—12

Key Ideas and Details (6-12)
  • RST.11-12.2 Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; summarize complex concepts, processes, or information presented in a text by paraphrasing them in simpler but still accurate terms.
Craft and Structure (6-12)
  • RST.11-12.4 Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 11—12 texts and topics.
Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity (6-12)
  • RST.11-12.10 By the end of grade 12, read and comprehend science/technical texts in the grades 11—CCR text complexity band independently and proficiently.
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AIP Format
T. Henderson, (1996), WWW Document, (
T. Henderson, Physics Classroom: What is a Projectile?, (1996), <>.
APA Format
Henderson, T. (2004, December 12). Physics Classroom: What is a Projectile?. Retrieved September 30, 2020, from
Chicago Format
Henderson, Tom. Physics Classroom: What is a Projectile?. December 12, 2004. (accessed 30 September 2020).
MLA Format
Henderson, Tom. Physics Classroom: What is a Projectile?. 1996. 12 Dec. 2004. 30 Sep. 2020 <>.
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@misc{ Author = "Tom Henderson", Title = {Physics Classroom: What is a Projectile?}, Volume = {2020}, Number = {30 September 2020}, Month = {December 12, 2004}, Year = {1996} }
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%A Tom Henderson
%T Physics Classroom: What is a Projectile?
%D December 12, 2004
%O text/html

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%0 Electronic Source
%A Henderson, Tom
%D December 12, 2004
%T Physics Classroom: What is a Projectile?
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%N 30 September 2020
%8 December 12, 2004
%9 text/html

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Physics Classroom: What is a Projectile?:

Has Teaching Guide PhET Simulation: Projectile Motion

This projectiles lesson from The Physics Classroom Tutorial provides a thorough background of projectiles to complement the PHET simulation.

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Has Teaching Guide Physclips: Projectiles

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Has Student Extra Flickr Physics

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Has Teaching Guide PBS Teachers

View a lesson plan on the topic of projectile motion. The lesson plan centers around the physics of juggling and is presented by PBS Teachers.

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