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AP Physics 1: Exam Prep12 chapters | 136 lessons

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Lesson Transcript

Instructor:
*Angela Hartsock*

Angela has taught college Microbiology and has a doctoral degree in Microbiology.

In this lesson, we will introduce how to use graphs to visually represent kinematics. For some students, graphing these types of problems is easier than using algebra equations.

The other day I was flipping through channels on the TV when I came to one of those competitive spelling bees. I stopped to watch for a minute but got really discouraged. Despite the fact that I was pretty familiar with most of the words, I couldn't spell them out loud correctly. I finally had to resort to writing them out on paper just to prove to myself that I'm not a terrible speller. Some people just have the ability to spontaneously spell words aloud, while others are lost without pencil and paper.

For those of you lost by all the formulas, variables, and algebra that comes along with kinematics problems, there is another way. Kinematics can be represented graphically. This is a skill that everyone needs to master, but hopefully the visual learners in the group will gain a much greater understanding of kinematics once they have a way to actually see what's going on.

I'm sure you've all seen the basic *x*/*y* graphs from algebra class. Just as a refresher, below is what I'm talking about. You've got your horizontal *x* axis and vertical *y* axis laid out on a grid. You can assign almost any variable to *x* and *y*. For example, as you walk, you travel a certain number of meters in a certain number of seconds. So, you can call *x* seconds and *y* meters. On the *y* (meters) axis, each grid line is equal to 1 meter. On the *x* (seconds) axis, each grid line is equal to 1 second.

All you need to do is measure how many meters you can walk in a second and plot those values. If you can walk 1 meter every second, after 1 second, you walked 1 meter. So, simply look on the map where the 1 second and 1 meter lines cross. After 2 seconds, you walked 2 meters, so plot that point, and so on. Once you've plotted several points, you can draw a line connecting your points.

This technique for visualizing kinematics can be applied to displacement, velocity, and acceleration. All you have to do is change the variables on the *x* and *y* axes to match the information you have.

It's very likely that you'll be asked to set up a graph, given only graph paper and a pencil. There are a few things you need to remember to include. First, draw the *x* and *y* axes. Always put little arrows on the ends of the lines. Believe it or not, you can lose points for not including those arrows.

Then, assign your variables to the *x* and *y* axes. Lastly, number your axes, starting with 0 at the point where the *x* and *y* axes cross, called *the origin*, and counting out in all four directions. Remember, kinematics involves vector quantities so you need the negative values. On the graph, objects that slow down or change direction can have negative values.

Let's briefly review. Motion can be studied algebraically or graphically. The common *x*/*y* graph is used to plot variables like position, displacement, velocity, and acceleration. Always remember that when setting up your graph, you need to include arrows on the axes, assign variables, and fill in the numbers in both the positive and negative directions.

Following this lesson, you'll be able to:

- Explain how an
*x*/*y*graph can be used to plot position, displacement, velocity, and acceleration - List the steps for setting up a graph to plot these variables

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AP Physics 1: Exam Prep12 chapters | 136 lessons

- What is Kinematics? - Studying the Motion of Objects 3:29
- Scalars and Vectors: Definition and Difference 3:23
- What is Position in Physics? - Definition & Examples 4:42
- Distance and Displacement in Physics: Definition and Examples 5:26
- Speed and Velocity: Difference and Examples 7:31
- Acceleration: Definition, Equation and Examples 6:21
- Significant Figures and Scientific Notation 10:12
- Uniformly-Accelerated Motion and the Big Five Kinematics Equations 6:51
- Representing Kinematics with Graphs 3:11
- What are Vector Diagrams? - Definition and Uses 4:20
- Using Position vs. Time Graphs to Describe Motion 4:35
- Determining Slope for Position vs. Time Graphs 6:48
- Using Velocity vs. Time Graphs to Describe Motion 4:52
- Determining Acceleration Using the Slope of a Velocity vs. Time Graph 5:07
- Velocity vs. Time: Determining Displacement of an Object 4:22
- Understanding Graphs of Motion: Giving Qualitative Descriptions 5:35
- Free Fall Physics Practice Problems 8:16
- Graphing Free Fall Motion: Showing Acceleration 5:24
- The Acceleration of Gravity: Definition & Formula 6:06
- Projectile Motion: Definition and Examples 4:58
- Projectile Motion Practice Problems 9:59
- Kinematic Equations List: Calculating Motion 5:41
- Go to AP Physics 1: Kinematics

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