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published by the PhET
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. Only basic graphing skills are required of the student. 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.

Additional context for this material is provided by the ComPADRE-SERC Pedagogic Service.
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
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Algebra-based Physics
- Lesson Plan
- Activity
- New teachers
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Intended User:
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Free access
© 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

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.?

This resource is part of a Physics Front Topical Unit.

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

An excellent lesson plan developed specifically to accompany the PhET simulation "The Moving Man".  Students with little prior knowledge of graph interpretation will gain understanding of velocity vs. time graphs and how they differ from position vs. time. Adaptable for both middle school and high school. Note: You must be a registered user to access PhET teacher-contributed resources. Registration is easy and free.

Link to Unit:
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Record Link
AIP Format
S. Reeves, (PhET, Boulder, 2005), WWW Document, (https://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/2833).
S. Reeves, PhET Teacher Activities: Moving Man - Velocity vs. Time Graphs (PhET, Boulder, 2005), <https://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/2833>.
APA Format
Reeves, S. (2008, April 30). PhET Teacher Activities: Moving Man - Velocity vs. Time Graphs. Retrieved June 19, 2024, from PhET: https://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/2833
Chicago Format
Reeves, Steve. PhET Teacher Activities: Moving Man - Velocity vs. Time Graphs. Boulder: PhET, April 30, 2008. https://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/2833 (accessed 19 June 2024).
MLA Format
Reeves, Steve. PhET Teacher Activities: Moving Man - Velocity vs. Time Graphs. Boulder: PhET, 2005. 30 Apr. 2008. 19 June 2024 <https://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/2833>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Author = "Steve Reeves", Title = {PhET Teacher Activities: Moving Man - Velocity vs. Time Graphs}, Publisher = {PhET}, Volume = {2024}, Number = {19 June 2024}, Month = {April 30, 2008}, Year = {2005} }
Refer Export Format

%A Steve Reeves %T PhET Teacher Activities: Moving Man - Velocity vs. Time Graphs %D April 30, 2008 %I PhET %C Boulder %U https://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/2833 %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 PhET %V 2024 %N 19 June 2024 %8 April 30, 2008 %9 text/html %U https://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/2833

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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.

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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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