How to Find the Center of Rotation

Instructor: Emily Hume

Emily is a Reading Specialist and Literacy coach in a public elementary school with a Master's Degree in Elementary Education.

If you've ever been on a Ferris wheel or twirled a baton, you have found the center of rotation, or the point around which something rotates. In this lesson, you'll learn how to find the center of rotation for an object that has been turned.

Center of Rotation in Real Life

Let's take an imaginary ride on a Ferris wheel! Picture yourself climbing into the seat and buckling your safety belt. The seat begins to move, traveling first forward and then up, slowly making a complete circle and coming back down to the platform again. You have just rotated around the center of the Ferris wheel. That center point is called the center of rotation.

Center of Rotation on a Ferris Wheel
Center of Rotation on a Ferris Wheel

Finding the Center of Rotation

Emma went to a basketball game. Before the game, she saw some of the players competing to see who could spin a basketball on his index finger the longest. Each player threw the basketball up onto his finger and spun it with his other hand. The balls rotated, and the players began to count.

Steps to Finding the Center of Rotation

  1. Ask yourself how the object or shape is rotating? Is it spinning left to right, right to left, top to bottom, or in another way? Determining which way the object is rotating will help you identify the center of rotation. In our example, the basketballs are rotating left to right, spinning in place.
  2. Determine the point around which the object is rotating. In this case, it would be the players' index fingers.
  3. The point around which the object is making full rotations is the center of rotation.

Another Example

Have you ever used a hula hoop or watched someone else use one? As you stood in one spot, you had to keep the hula hoop spinning or rotating around you in order to keep it at the center of rotation. Can you guess what the center of rotation would be here? It's your waist!

Just like the center point of the Ferris wheel or the basketball player's finger, your waist stayed in one spot while the hula hoop rotated around it. So in this example, your waist was the center of rotation.

Center of Rotation with a Hula Hoop
Center of Rotation with a Hula Hoop

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