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published by the PhET
This interactive simulation lets learners move an object on the screen and view the resulting graphs of position, velocity, and acceleration. It was developed to help beginners explore why the graphs follow predictable patterns. Set initial conditions and view the graphs simultaneously as the "Moving Man" changes position. You can also program the motion by entering an equation for the position as a function of time and play it back in slow motion or at real speed.  

The resource provides sample learning goals as well as user-submitted lesson plans and activities for student groups ranging from the middle grades through high school. This page is part of the PhET collection of free simulations for science education, many of which have been classroom tested.

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

Additional context for this material is provided by the ComPADRE-SERC Pedagogic Service.
Editor's Note: We like the versatility of this resource, but middle school students may be distracted by all the moving displays onscreen. By removing the acceleration vs. time graph, the activity can be more easily adapted for first-time users in 8th-9th grade physical science classrooms.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Classical Mechanics
- Motion in One Dimension
= Acceleration
= Position & Displacement
= Velocity
- High School
- Lower Undergraduate
- Instructional Material
= Interactive Simulation
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Algebra-based Physics
- AP Physics
- Lesson Plan
- Activity
- New teachers
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Intended User:
Access Rights:
Free access
© 2001 Physics Education Technology, University of Colorado
Additional information is available.
Link to Material
acceleration, equation, graph, kinematics, oscillation, position, vector, velocity
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created October 4, 2005 by Amin Parnian
Record Updated:
August 18, 2016 by Lyle Barbato
Last Update
when Cataloged:
March 22, 2005
Other Collections:

Cute, but...

Author: Jennifer Broekman
Posted: January 20, 2008 at 2:26PM

It's very difficult to create a smooth position-time graph, so the acceleration-time graph is wild. Consequently, the acceleration vector becomes a distractor, rather than effectively illustrating what acceleration does.

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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.
  • 9-12: 4F/H1. The change in motion (direction or speed) of an object is proportional to the applied force and inversely proportional to the mass.
  • 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.
  • 9-12: 9B/H1b. Sometimes the rate of change of something depends on how much there is of something else (as the rate of change of speed is proportional to the amount of force acting).
  • 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

Standards for Mathematical Practice (K-12)

MP.4 Model with mathematics.

Expressions and Equations (6-8)

Represent and analyze quantitative relationships between dependent and independent variables. (6)
  • 6.EE.9 Use variables to represent two quantities in a real-world problem that change in relationship to one another; write an equation to express one quantity, thought of as the dependent variable, in terms of the other quantity, thought of as the independent variable. Analyze the relationship between the dependent and independent variables using graphs and tables, and relate these to the equation.

Functions (8)

Define, evaluate, and compare functions. (8)
  • 8.F.1 Understand that a function is a rule that assigns to each input exactly one output. The graph of a function is the set of ordered pairs consisting of an input and the corresponding output.
  • 8.F.2 Compare properties of two functions each represented in a different way (algebraically, graphically, numerically in tables, or by verbal descriptions).
  • 8.F.3 Interpret the equation y = mx + b as defining a linear function, whose graph is a straight line; give examples of functions that are not linear.
Use functions to model relationships between quantities. (8)
  • 8.F.4 Construct a function to model a linear relationship between two quantities. Determine the rate of change and initial value of the function from a description of a relationship or from two (x, y) values, including reading these from a table or from a graph. Interpret the rate of change and initial value of a linear function in terms of the situation it models, and in terms of its graph or a table of values.
  • 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)

Linear, Quadratic, and Exponential Models? (9-12)
  • F-LE.5 Interpret the parameters in a linear or exponential function in terms of a context.

This resource is part of a Physics Front Topical Unit.

Topic: Kinematics: The Physics of Motion
Unit Title: Graphing

Maneuver a simulated man and watch simultaneous graphs of his position, velocity, and acceleration.  For beginning learners, the acceleration graph may be closed.  Try teaming this simulation with the great companion lessons by PhET teacher-fellows, found under "Lesson Plans" above. Highly versatile resource; adaptable to a broad spectrum of abilities/levels.

Link to Unit:
ComPADRE is beta testing Citation Styles!

Record Link
AIP Format
(PhET, Boulder, 2001), WWW Document, (https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/moving-man).
PhET Simulation: The Moving Man (PhET, Boulder, 2001), <https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/moving-man>.
APA Format
PhET Simulation: The Moving Man. (2005, March 22). Retrieved June 21, 2024, from PhET: https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/moving-man
Chicago Format
PhET. PhET Simulation: The Moving Man. Boulder: PhET, March 22, 2005. https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/moving-man (accessed 21 June 2024).
MLA Format
PhET Simulation: The Moving Man. Boulder: PhET, 2001. 22 Mar. 2005. 21 June 2024 <https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/moving-man>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Title = {PhET Simulation: The Moving Man}, Publisher = {PhET}, Volume = {2024}, Number = {21 June 2024}, Month = {March 22, 2005}, Year = {2001} }
Refer Export Format

%T PhET Simulation: The Moving Man %D March 22, 2005 %I PhET %C Boulder %U https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/moving-man %O application/java

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source %D March 22, 2005 %T PhET Simulation: The Moving Man %I PhET %V 2024 %N 21 June 2024 %8 March 22, 2005 %9 application/java %U https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/moving-man

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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 Style.org: Electronic References.

The Chicago Style presented is based on information from Examples of Chicago-Style Documentation.

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PhET Simulation: The Moving Man:

Covers the Same Topic As Science House: Motion and Graphing

The Motion and Graphing activity provides a laboratory experience similar to The Moving Man virtual experiments.

relation by Bruce Mason
Covers the Same Topic As Tracker Video Analysis

The Tracker Video Analysis program allows students to analyze videos of motion experiments.

relation by Bruce Mason
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
Accompanies PhET Teacher Ideas & Activities: Moving Man

A PhET Gold Star winning inquiry-based lesson for use in high school physics classes.  It was developed specifically for use with The Moving Man simulation.

relation by Caroline Hall

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