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This simulation, recently rewritten to HTML5, lets users explore the forces at work when pulling a cart or pushing various objects. It is designed to help novice learners build an understanding of net force by modeling the following situations:  1) What happens to the motion of an object when forces are balanced vs. unbalanced? 2) What happens when the motion is opposed by friction? 3) How do the components of mass and speed factor into the acceleration of an object when force is applied?

This resource is part of the PhET project, a growing collection of simulations and teacher-created support materials for secondary teachers and learners.
Editor's Note: This newer version of "Forces and Motion" is suitable for Grades 7-10 or as a review for high school conceptual physics courses. See Related Materials for a link to the older Java version, which may be more appropriate for students who have mastered the basics of net force.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Classical Mechanics
- Applications of Newton's Laws
= Friction
- Motion in One Dimension
= Acceleration
= Position & Displacement
= Velocity
- Newton's Second Law
= Interacting Objects
- Statics of Rigid Bodies
= Resolution of Forces
Education Practices
- Active Learning
- High School
- Middle School
- Lower Undergraduate
- Instructional Material
= Activity
= Interactive Simulation
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Activity
- New teachers
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Free access
© 2010 University of Colorado at Boulder
Additional information is available.
Newton's 2nd Law, Newton's 3rd Law, acceleration graph, force interactions, force pairs, forces, free body diagram, net force, position graph, velocity graph
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created December 20, 2018 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
December 20, 2018 by Caroline Hall
Last Update
when Cataloged:
August 15, 2011

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)
  • Newton's second law accurately predicts changes in the motion of macroscopic objects. (9-12)

Crosscutting Concepts (K-12)

Cause and Effect (K-12)
  • Cause and effect relationships may be used to predict phenomena in natural or designed systems. (6-8)

NGSS Science and Engineering Practices (K-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)
    • Develop and use a model based on evidence to illustrate the relationships between systems or between components of a system. (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)
    • Create or revise a simulation of a phenomenon, designed device, process, or system. (9-12)

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

4. The Physical Setting

4E. Energy Transformations
  • 6-8: 4E/M2. Energy can be transferred from one system to another (or from a system to its environment) in different ways: 1) thermally, when a warmer object is in contact with a cooler one; 2) mechanically, when two objects push or pull on each other over a distance; 3) electrically, when an electrical source such as a battery or generator is connected in a complete circuit to an electrical device; or 4) by electromagnetic waves.
4F. Motion
  • 3-5: 4F/E1a. Changes in speed or direction of motion are caused by forces.
  • 3-5: 4F/E1bc. The greater the force is, the greater the change in motion will be. The more massive an object is, the less effect a given force will have.
  • 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/H4. Whenever one thing exerts a force on another, an equal amount of force is exerted back on it.

11. Common Themes

11B. Models
  • 6-8: 11B/M4. Simulations are often useful in modeling events and processes.
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Record Link
AIP Format
(PhET, Boulder, 2010), WWW Document, (https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/forces-and-motion-basics).
PhET Simulation: Forces and Motion-Basics (PhET, Boulder, 2010), <https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/forces-and-motion-basics>.
APA Format
PhET Simulation: Forces and Motion-Basics. (2011, August 15). Retrieved July 17, 2024, from PhET: https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/forces-and-motion-basics
Chicago Format
PhET. PhET Simulation: Forces and Motion-Basics. Boulder: PhET, August 15, 2011. https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/forces-and-motion-basics (accessed 17 July 2024).
MLA Format
PhET Simulation: Forces and Motion-Basics. Boulder: PhET, 2010. 15 Aug. 2011. 17 July 2024 <https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/forces-and-motion-basics>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Title = {PhET Simulation: Forces and Motion-Basics}, Publisher = {PhET}, Volume = {2024}, Number = {17 July 2024}, Month = {August 15, 2011}, Year = {2010} }
Refer Export Format

%T PhET Simulation: Forces and Motion-Basics %D August 15, 2011 %I PhET %C Boulder %U https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/forces-and-motion-basics %O text/html

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source %D August 15, 2011 %T PhET Simulation: Forces and Motion-Basics %I PhET %V 2024 %N 17 July 2024 %8 August 15, 2011 %9 text/html %U https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/forces-and-motion-basics

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PhET Simulation: Forces and Motion-Basics:

Is Based On PhET Simulation: Forces and Motion

A link to the original PhET Java version of the "Forces and Motion" simulation. This version includes free-body diagrams and may be appropriate for students who have mastered the conceptual basics of net force.

relation by Caroline Hall

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