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Average Speed & Velocity: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Anne McGreevy

Anne has a master's degree in mathematics education and has taught elementary and secondary science and math.

What is average speed? How is it calculated? What is this thing called velocity? These are great questions that we will explore. In this lesson you will learn the difference between average speed and velocity and how they are calculated.

What is Average Speed?

Have you ever ridden your bike around the block and wondered how fast you were going? Maybe you were traveling 5 miles per hour (mph) or maybe 10 mph? It is easy to find out. All you need to do is measure the distance around the block, ride your bike, and time yourself with a watch.

Speed is how fast something is moving. When you ride your bike you may not always be traveling at the same speed. You might be going faster when you go down a hill and more slowly when you go up a hill. Average speed is simply a measurement of the distance something travels over a period of time. It could be a bike being ridden down the sidewalk, or a ball traveling through the air, or even a pumpkin being flung from a catapult.

To find out average speed, you need to know the time
Stopwatch

Calculating Average Speed

Average speed can be written as a math problem like this:

Average Speed = distance an object travels ÷ time from start to finish

It can also be written as a fraction like this:

Average Speed = distance an object travels / time from start to finish

Whichever way it is written, the answer is still the same!

Let's look at an example.

Emma rides her bike to the park. The park is 8 miles north from her house. If Emma leaves her house at 8:00 a.m. and arrives at the park at 10:00 a.m., what is her average speed?

The distance Emma travels on her bike from her house to the park is 8 miles. The time it takes her to travel from 8:00 -10:00 is 2 hours.

Emma's Average Speed = 8 miles ÷ 2 hours = 4 miles per hour

This means that Emma travels, on average, a distance of 4 miles each hour.

To find out average speed, you need to know the distance traveled
Girl on a bike

What is Velocity?

Velocity is different than average speed. Velocity is how far something is from its starting point over a period of time. Also, velocity always includes the direction the object is traveling.

Calculating Velocity

Velocity can be written as a math problem like this:

Velocity = shortest distance from start to finish + direction ÷ change in time

Velocity can also be written as a fraction like this:

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