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Acceleration Lesson for Kids: Definition, Formula & Examples

Instructor: Ryan Newton
You might not realize it, but you experience acceleration all the time. When you ride your bike, skateboard, or ride in a car you are accelerating. In this lesson, you'll find out how to calculate your own rate of acceleration.

Acceleration: Definition & Formula

Everyday we see cars zooming down the streets and planes zipping through the air. One thing they all have in common is that they use acceleration to change from slower speeds to faster speeds. Acceleration is the rate of change in velocity of an object, or just a fancy word for speeding up. It is part of a branch of science called physics.

Scientists who study physics have a special formula for calculating acceleration. The formula for calculating acceleration is:

Acceleration = change in velocity / change in time

Remember, the slash in the middle means to divide. The formula requires us to know the change of speed and how long it took for that change to happen. We can then figure out the acceleration rate.

Example One

Imagine that a car is going 10 miles per hour. The car then speeds up to 40 miles per hour (mph), which takes 5 seconds. That's an increase of 30 mph in 5 seconds. Let's plug these numbers into our formula.

A = 30 mph / 5 seconds

A = 6 mph per second

The car accelerated 6 miles per hour each second. We have just used the formula to figure out its rate of acceleration. Let's look at some more examples.

Example Two

When you ride your bike you start out slow, but you like to go fast right? Let's say you hop on your bike, pedal hard, and after 4 seconds you are going 12 miles per hour. So you went from 0 to 12 in 4 seconds. The formula will help us find your acceleration rate.

A = 12 mph / 4 seconds

A = 3 mph per second

This means your acceleration rate was 3 mph per second.

Now, let's say you want to go even faster! So you find a hill and start pedaling down. Pretty soon you have gone from 12 mph to 26 mph in only 2 seconds. You've just increased your speed by 14 miles per hour! Let's see what your acceleration rate was.

A = 14 mph / 2 seconds

A = 7 mph per second

Your acceleration was 7 mph per second. Going down that hill really helped!

Example Three

How about we speed this up a bit? Maybe you've heard of a Lamborghini. Sure, they're fast, but just how fast? Let's find out.

There is a Lamborghini that can go from 0 to 60 mph in about 3 seconds! Now that is some serious acceleration. Here's the formula again.

A = 60 mph / 3 seconds

A = 20 mph per second

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