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ZingPath: Acceleration

Motion Under Constant Acceleration

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Lesson Focus

Motion Under Constant Acceleration


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You will learn about motion with constant acceleration.

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Now You Know

After completing this tutorial, you will be able to complete the following:

  • Define acceleration.
  • Define motion with constant acceleration.
  • Interpret a position-time graph of motion with constant acceleration.
  • Interpret a velocity-time graph of motion with constant acceleration.
  • Interpret an acceleration-time graph of motion with constant acceleration.

Everything You'll Have Covered

An understanding of displacement, velocity, and acceleration is fundamental to further studies of motion. Displacement is defined as a vector, with both magnitude (distance) and direction. Velocity is defined as a vector, with both magnitude and direction. Acceleration is defined as any change in velocity, such as a change in speed or direction. It is also a vector quantity.

When plotted against time, the graph of position of an object with constant velocity is linear. An equal displacement occurs at each time interval, and the slope of this line is constant at every point. This slope corresponds to velocity, which, when plotted on a graph as a function of time, is a straight horizontal line (a constant).

In contrast, when an object is moving under constant acceleration, a graph of its position over time will be a parabolic curve as displacement increases quadratically over equal time intervals. Taking the slope of the tangent at each point in the curve reveals the instantaneous velocity. A graph of instantaneous velocity over time is linear. The tangent of this line is the acceleration. As velocity changes linearly, and therefore has the same tangent at each point, the graph of acceleration over time will be a horizontal line (a constant).

Only motion in one dimension is explored here. Therefore, only positive and negative linear directions should be considered.

Tutorial Details

Approximate Time 20 Minutes
Pre-requisite Concepts Students should know the definition of velocity vector and displacement vector, and have the ability to interpret a graph.
Course Physics
Type of Tutorial Concept Development
Key Vocabulary acceleration, acceleration-time graphs, average velocity