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published by the Physics Education Technology Project
Available Languages: English, Spanish
This is an interactive simulation created to help beginners differentiate velocity and acceleration vectors.  The user can move a ball with the mouse or let the simulation move the ball in four modes of motion (two types of linear, simple harmonic, and circular). Two vectors are displayed -- one green and one blue. As the motion of the ball changes, the vectors also change. Which color represents velocity and which acceleration?

Editor's Note: This simulation was designed with improvements based on research of student interaction with the PhET resource "Ladybug Revolution". The authors added two new features for the beginning learner:  linear acceleration and harmonic motion.

This item is part of a larger and growing collection of resources developed by the Physics Education Technology project (PhET), each designed to implement principles of physics education research.

Please note that this resource requires Java Applet Plug-in.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Classical Mechanics
- Motion in Two Dimensions
= 2D Acceleration
= 2D Velocity
- High School
- Lower Undergraduate
- Middle School
- Informal Education
- Instructional Material
= Activity
= Interactive Simulation
Intended Users Formats Ratings
- Learners
- Educators
- application/java
- text/html
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Access Rights:
Free access
© 2007 University of Colorado, Physics Education Technology
Additional information is available.
acceleration, circular motion, motion, simple harmonic motion, two-dimensional motion, vectors, velocity
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created November 15, 2007 by Alea Smith
Record Updated:
August 18, 2016 by Lyle Barbato
Last Update
when Cataloged:
November 15, 2007
Other Collections:

Next Generation Science Standards

Crosscutting Concepts (K-12)

Patterns (K-12)
  • Graphs, charts, and images can be used to identify patterns in data. (6-8)

NGSS Science and Engineering Practices (K-12)

Analyzing and Interpreting Data (K-12)
  • Analyzing data in 9–12 builds on K–8 and progresses to introducing more detailed statistical analysis, the comparison of data sets for consistency, and the use of models to generate and analyze data. (9-12)
    • Analyze data using computational models in order to make valid and reliable scientific claims. (9-12)
Developing and Using Models (K-12)
  • Modeling in 9–12 builds on K–8 and progresses to using, synthesizing, and developing models to predict and show relationships among variables between systems and their components in the natural and designed worlds. (9-12)
    • Use a model to provide mechanistic accounts of phenomena. (9-12)
Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking (5-12)
  • Mathematical and computational thinking at the 9–12 level builds on K–8 and progresses to using algebraic thinking and analysis, a range of linear and nonlinear functions including trigonometric functions, exponentials and logarithms, and computational tools for statistical analysis to analyze, represent, and model data. Simple computational simulations are created and used based on mathematical models of basic assumptions. (9-12)
    • Use mathematical representations of phenomena to describe explanations. (9-12)

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

4. The Physical Setting

4F. Motion
  • 3-5: 4F/E1a. Changes in speed or direction of motion are caused by forces.
  • 6-8: 4F/M3a. An unbalanced force acting on an object changes its speed or direction of motion, or both.

11. Common Themes

11B. Models
  • 6-8: 11B/M4. Simulations are often useful in modeling events and processes.

Common Core State Standards for Mathematics Alignments

High School — Number and Quantity (9-12)

Vector and Matrix Quantities (9-12)
  • N-VM.1 (+) Recognize vector quantities as having both magnitude and direction. Represent vector quantities by directed line segments, and use appropriate symbols for vectors and their magnitudes (e.g., v, |v|, ||v||, v).
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Record Link
AIP Format
(Physics Education Technology Project, Boulder, 2007), WWW Document, (
PhET Simulation: Motion in 2D, (Physics Education Technology Project, Boulder, 2007), <>.
APA Format
PhET Simulation: Motion in 2D. (2007, November 15). Retrieved August 19, 2017, from Physics Education Technology Project:
Chicago Format
Physics Education Technology Project. PhET Simulation: Motion in 2D. Boulder: Physics Education Technology Project, November 15, 2007. (accessed 19 August 2017).
MLA Format
PhET Simulation: Motion in 2D. Boulder: Physics Education Technology Project, 2007. 15 Nov. 2007. 19 Aug. 2017 <>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Title = {PhET Simulation: Motion in 2D}, Publisher = {Physics Education Technology Project}, Volume = {2017}, Number = {19 August 2017}, Month = {November 15, 2007}, Year = {2007} }
Refer Export Format

%T PhET Simulation: Motion in 2D
%D November 15, 2007
%I Physics Education Technology Project
%C Boulder
%O application/java

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source
%D November 15, 2007
%T PhET Simulation: Motion in 2D
%I Physics Education Technology Project
%V 2017
%N 19 August 2017
%8 November 15, 2007
%9 application/java

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Citation Source Information

The AIP Style presented is based on information from the AIP Style Manual.

The APA Style presented is based on information from APA Electronic References.

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PhET Simulation: Motion in 2D:

Is Required By PhET Teacher Activities: Vectors Simulations Lab

An editor-recommended virtual lab, authored by a high school teacher specifically for use with the Motion in 2D simulation.

relation by Caroline Hall
Is Supplemented By The Physics Classroom: Vectors - Fundamentals and Operations

A self-directed tutorial for deeper exploration of vector direction, with problem sets and related animation.

relation by Caroline Hall

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