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written by Tom Henderson
This interactive tutorial explores the language of kinematics, the science of describing the motion of objects using words, diagrams, graphs, and equations. It contains four sections: scalars/vectors, distance/displacement, speed/velocity, and acceleration. The author uses real-world applications to help learners connect the physics terms with everyday life. Animations and interactive question-and-answer sets give students practice with immediate feedback.
Editor's Note: This item is part of The Physics Classroom collection, a comprehensive set of tutorials, animations, labs, and support materials for teachers and learners. Originally developed for high school physics students, the collection can also serve as content support for K-8 teachers.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Classical Mechanics
- Motion in One Dimension
General Physics
- Measurement/Units
- High School
- Lower Undergraduate
- Instructional Material
= Curriculum support
= Tutorial
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Algebra-based Physics
- AP Physics
- Lesson Plan
- Activity
- New teachers
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Free access
© 2001 Tom Henderson
Acceleration, Kinematics, Motion, Position, Velocity, scalar, vector
Record Creator:
Metadata instance created April 8, 2004 by Matthew Meizlish
Record Updated:
January 13, 2014 by Caroline Hall
Other Collections:

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

2. The Nature of Mathematics

2B. Mathematics, Science, and Technology
  • 9-12: 2B/H3. Mathematics provides a precise language to describe objects and events and the relationships among them. In addition, mathematics provides tools for solving problems, analyzing data, and making logical arguments.

9. The Mathematical World

9B. Symbolic Relationships
  • 9-12: 9B/H4. Tables, graphs, and symbols are alternative ways of representing data and relationships that can be translated from one to another.
9C. Shapes
  • 9-12: 9C/H3a. Geometric shapes and relationships can be described in terms of symbols and numbers—and vice versa.

Common Core State Standards for Mathematics Alignments

High School — Number and Quantity (9-12)

Quantities? (9-12)
  • N-Q.1 Use units as a way to understand problems and to guide the solution of multi-step problems; choose and interpret units consistently in formulas; choose and interpret the scale and the origin in graphs and data displays.
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).

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.
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.

This resource is part of 3 Physics Front Topical Units.

Topic: Measurement and the Language of Physics
Unit Title: Physics Terminology

To a beginning student, the unfamiliar language of physics can seem like a foreign tongue. This tutorial, part of the respected Physics Classroom collection, is an interactive introduction to some basic terminology. It focuses on scalars, vectors, distance, and displacement.

Link to Unit:

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

This set of lessons investigates the language of kinematics (the physics of motion).  It is designed to help students understand that the scientific meaning of words like "velocity" and "acceleration" is different from their use in everyday language.

Link to Unit:

Topic: Kinematics: The Physics of Motion
Unit Title: Motion in More Than One Dimension

Kinematics is the science of describing the motion of objects using words, diagrams, numbers, graphs, and equations. The goal of any study of kinematics is to develop sophisticated mental models which serve to describe (and ultimately, explain) the motion of real-world objects.

Links to Units:
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AIP Format
T. Henderson, (2001), WWW Document, (https://www.physicsclassroom.com/Class/1DKin/U1L1a.cfm).
T. Henderson, The Physics Classroom: Describing Motion with Words, (2001), <https://www.physicsclassroom.com/Class/1DKin/U1L1a.cfm>.
APA Format
Henderson, T. (2001). The Physics Classroom: Describing Motion with Words. Retrieved January 17, 2022, from https://www.physicsclassroom.com/Class/1DKin/U1L1a.cfm
Chicago Format
Henderson, Tom. The Physics Classroom: Describing Motion with Words. 2001. https://www.physicsclassroom.com/Class/1DKin/U1L1a.cfm (accessed 17 January 2022).
MLA Format
Henderson, Tom. The Physics Classroom: Describing Motion with Words. 2001. 17 Jan. 2022 <https://www.physicsclassroom.com/Class/1DKin/U1L1a.cfm>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Author = "Tom Henderson", Title = {The Physics Classroom: Describing Motion with Words}, Volume = {2022}, Number = {17 January 2022}, Year = {2001} }
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%A Tom Henderson %T The Physics Classroom: Describing Motion with Words %D 2001 %U https://www.physicsclassroom.com/Class/1DKin/U1L1a.cfm %O text/html

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%0 Electronic Source %A Henderson, Tom %D 2001 %T The Physics Classroom: Describing Motion with Words %V 2022 %N 17 January 2022 %9 text/html %U https://www.physicsclassroom.com/Class/1DKin/U1L1a.cfm

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