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published by the Physics Education Technology Project
written by Steve Reeves
This lesson plan was developed specifically for use with the PhET simulation "The Moving Man".  It is intended to help beginning students differentiate velocity vs. time graphs from position vs. time graphs, and also to promote understanding of multiple frames of reference in analyzing an object's motion. It was created by a high school teacher under the sponsorship of the PhET project.  

SEE RELATED ITEMS BELOW for a link to "The Moving Man" simulation, which must be running to complete the activity.

Please note that this resource requires at least version 1.4, Java WebStart of Java.

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Subjects Levels Resource Types
Classical Mechanics
- Motion in One Dimension
= Acceleration
= Position & Displacement
= Velocity
Oscillations & Waves
- Oscillations
= Simple Harmonic Motion
- High School
- Instructional Material
= Lesson/Lesson Plan
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© 2005 Physics Education Technology, University of Colorado
Additional information is available.
Link to Material
acceleration, equation, graph, kinematics, position, vector, velocity
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created November 14, 2008 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
August 18, 2016 by Lyle Barbato
Last Update
when Cataloged:
April 30, 2008
Other Collections:

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)
  • The motion of an object is determined by the sum of the forces acting on it; if the total force on the object is not zero, its motion will change. The greater the mass of the object, the greater the force needed to achieve the same change in motion. For any given object, a larger force causes a larger change in motion. (6-8)
  • All positions of objects and the directions of forces and motions must be described in an arbitrarily chosen reference frame and arbitrarily chosen units of size. In order to share information with other people, these choices must also be shared. (6-8)

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

4. The Physical Setting

4F. Motion
  • 6-8: 4F/M3a. An unbalanced force acting on an object changes its speed or direction of motion, or both.

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.
  • 9-12: 9B/H4. Tables, graphs, and symbols are alternative ways of representing data and relationships that can be translated from one to another.

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

Functions (8)

Use functions to model relationships between quantities. (8)
  • 8.F.5 Describe qualitatively the functional relationship between two quantities by analyzing a graph (e.g., where the function is increasing or decreasing, linear or nonlinear). Sketch a graph that exhibits the qualitative features of a function that has been described verbally.

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.5 Relate the domain of a function to its graph and, where applicable, to the quantitative relationship it describes.?
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AIP Format
S. Reeves, (Physics Education Technology Project, Boulder, 2005), WWW Document, (
S. Reeves, PhET Teacher Activities: Moving Man - Velocity vs. Time Graphs, (Physics Education Technology Project, Boulder, 2005), <>.
APA Format
Reeves, S. (2008, April 30). PhET Teacher Activities: Moving Man - Velocity vs. Time Graphs. Retrieved June 22, 2018, from Physics Education Technology Project:
Chicago Format
Reeves, Steve. PhET Teacher Activities: Moving Man - Velocity vs. Time Graphs. Boulder: Physics Education Technology Project, April 30, 2008. (accessed 22 June 2018).
MLA Format
Reeves, Steve. PhET Teacher Activities: Moving Man - Velocity vs. Time Graphs. Boulder: Physics Education Technology Project, 2005. 30 Apr. 2008. 22 June 2018 <>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Author = "Steve Reeves", Title = {PhET Teacher Activities: Moving Man - Velocity vs. Time Graphs}, Publisher = {Physics Education Technology Project}, Volume = {2018}, Number = {22 June 2018}, Month = {April 30, 2008}, Year = {2005} }
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%A Steve Reeves
%T PhET Teacher Activities: Moving Man - Velocity vs. Time Graphs
%D April 30, 2008
%I Physics Education Technology Project
%C Boulder
%O text/html

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source
%A Reeves, Steve
%D April 30, 2008
%T PhET Teacher Activities: Moving Man - Velocity vs. Time Graphs
%I Physics Education Technology Project
%V 2018
%N 22 June 2018
%8 April 30, 2008
%9 text/html

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PhET Teacher Activities: Moving Man - Velocity vs. Time Graphs:

Accompanies PhET Simulation: The Moving Man

This is the PhET simulation which this lesson plan was designed to accompany.

relation by Caroline Hall
Is Supplemented By Student Difficulties in Physics Information Center

An annotated list of documented student misconceptions related to the topics of motion and forces.  Contains probative questions to elicit and address the misconceptions.

relation by Caroline Hall

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