written by
Chris Bires
published by
the Physics Education Technology Project

This virtual lab was developed by a high school teacher specifically for use with the PhET simulation "Motion in 2D". It provides explicit direction for using the simulation to explore vector quantities, vector addition, and calculating resultants. In the last half of the activity, students demonstrate understanding by performing specific calculations, then using the simulation to check their work. The lesson includes printable student data tables.

The associated simulation (which must be running to complete this activity) is available from PhET at: Motion in 2D.

Please note that this resource requires
Java Applet Plug-in.

Editor's Note:Why we like it: This lesson provides guided instruction to help students stay on task as they explore vector quantities with the simulation. It then takes the learner to the next level: can they apply what they learned to perform the calculations to find vector resultants?

9-12: 2A/H1. Mathematics is the study of quantities and shapes, the patterns and relationships between quantities or shapes, and operations on either quantities or shapes. Some of these relationships involve natural phenomena, while others deal with abstractions not tied to the physical world.

4. The Physical Setting

4F. Motion

6-8: 4F/M3a. An unbalanced force acting on an object changes its speed or direction of motion, or both.

9. The Mathematical World

9B. Symbolic Relationships

9-12: 9B/H4. Tables, graphs, and symbols are alternative ways of representing data and relationships that can be translated from one to another.

9-12: 9B/H5. When a relationship is represented in symbols, numbers can be substituted for all but one of the symbols and the possible value of the remaining symbol computed. Sometimes the relationship may be satisfied by one value, sometimes by more than one, and sometimes not at all.

9C. Shapes

6-8: 9C/M9. Relationships exist among the angles between the sides of triangle and the lengths of those sides. For example, when two sides of a triangle are perpendicular, the sum of the squares of the lengths of those sides is equal to the square of the third side of the triangle.

11. Common Themes

11B. Models

9-12: 11B/H1a. A mathematical model uses rules and relationships to describe and predict objects and events in the real world.

12. Habits of Mind

12B. Computation and Estimation

9-12: 12B/H2. Find answers to real-world problems by substituting numerical values in simple algebraic formulas and check the answer by reviewing the steps of the calculation and by judging whether the answer is reasonable.

Common Core State Standards for Mathematics Alignments

High School — Number and Quantity (9-12)

Vector and Matrix Quantities (9-12)

N-VM.2 (+) Find the components of a vector by subtracting the coordinates of an initial point from the coordinates of a terminal point.

N-VM.4.b Given two vectors in magnitude and direction form, determine the magnitude and direction of their sum.

%0 Electronic Source %A Bires, Chris %D August 4, 2010 %T PhET Teacher Activities: Vectors Simulations Lab %I Physics Education Technology Project %V 2015 %N 6 July 2015 %8 August 4, 2010 %9 application/ms-word %U https://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/3141

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