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written by Tom Henderson
This resource guides the user through characteristics of circular motion.  The same concepts and principles used to describe the motion of an object can also be used to describe and explain the motion of objects in circular pathways.  This tutorial is broken into five sections addressing:  the mechanics of circular motion, centripetal force,  algebraic and trigonometric problems and solutions, and a full chapter that debunks the centrifugal "force" misconception.  The interactive problems use diagrams and force vectors to help students visualize how vector components affect the way circular motion is characterized.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Classical Mechanics
- Applications of Newton's Laws
- Motion in Two Dimensions
- Rotational Dynamics
- Work and Energy
= Conservation of Energy
- High School
- Middle School
- Lower Undergraduate
- Instructional Material
= Problem/Problem Set
= Tutorial
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Algebra-based Physics
- AP Physics
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- New teachers
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© 1996 The Physics Classroom
Keywords:
centripetal force, circular motion, circular motion tutorial, vectors
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created January 18, 2007 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
February 24, 2014 by Caroline Hall
Last Update
when Cataloged:
December 12, 2004

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

4. The Physical Setting

4F. Motion
  • 6-8: 4F/M3b. If a force acts towards a single center, the object's path may curve into an orbit around the center.
  • 9-12: 4F/H8. Any object maintains a constant speed and direction of motion unless an unbalanced outside force acts on it.

9. The Mathematical World

9B. Symbolic Relationships
  • 9-12: 9B/H1b. Sometimes the rate of change of something depends on how much there is of something else (as the rate of change of speed is proportional to the amount of force acting).
  • 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.

Next Generation Science Standards

Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions (HS-PS2)

Students who demonstrate understanding can: (9-12)
  • Analyze data to support the claim that Newton's second law of motion describes the mathematical relationship among the net force on a macroscopic object, its mass, and its acceleration. (HS-PS2-1)

Disciplinary Core Ideas (K-12)

Forces and Motion (PS2.A)
  • The motion of an object is determined by the sum of the forces acting on it; if the total force on the object is not zero, its motion will change. The greater the mass of the object, the greater the force needed to achieve the same change in motion. For any given object, a larger force causes a larger change in motion. (6-8)
  • Newton's second law accurately predicts changes in the motion of macroscopic objects. (9-12)

Crosscutting Concepts (K-12)

Patterns (K-12)
  • Patterns in rates of change and other numerical relationships can provide information about natural systems. (6-8)
Systems and System Models (K-12)
  • When investigating or describing a system, the boundaries and initial conditions of the system need to be defined and their inputs and outputs analyzed and described using models. (9-12)

NGSS Science and Engineering Practices (K-12)

Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information (K-12)
  • Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information in 9–12 builds on K–8 and progresses to evaluating the validity and reliability of the claims, methods, and designs. (9-12)
    • Communicate scientific information (e.g., about phenomena and/or the process of development and the design and performance of a proposed process or system) in multiple formats (including orally, graphically, textually, and mathematically). (9-12)
Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking (5-12)
  • Mathematical and computational thinking at the 9–12 level builds on K–8 and progresses to using algebraic thinking and analysis, a range of linear and nonlinear functions including trigonometric functions, exponentials and logarithms, and computational tools for statistical analysis to analyze, represent, and model data. Simple computational simulations are created and used based on mathematical models of basic assumptions. (9-12)
    • Use mathematical representations of phenomena to describe explanations. (9-12)

Common Core State Standards for Mathematics Alignments

High School — Number and Quantity (9-12)

Vector and Matrix Quantities (9-12)
  • N-VM.1 (+) Recognize vector quantities as having both magnitude and direction. Represent vector quantities by directed line segments, and use appropriate symbols for vectors and their magnitudes (e.g., v, |v|, ||v||, v).

High School — Algebra (9-12)

Seeing Structure in Expressions (9-12)
  • A-SSE.2 Use the structure of an expression to identify ways to rewrite it.

High School — Functions (9-12)

Interpreting Functions (9-12)
  • F-IF.6 Calculate and interpret the average rate of change of a function (presented symbolically or as a table) over a specified interval. Estimate the rate of change from a graph.
  • F-IF.8.b Use the properties of exponents to interpret expressions for exponential functions.
  • F-IF.9 Compare properties of two functions each represented in a different way (algebraically, graphically, numerically in tables, or by verbal descriptions).

Common Core State Reading Standards for Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects 6—12

Key Ideas and Details (6-12)
  • RST.9-10.3 Follow precisely a complex multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks, attending to special cases or exceptions defined in the text.
  • RST.11-12.2 Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; summarize complex concepts, processes, or information presented in a text by paraphrasing them in simpler but still accurate terms.
Integration of Knowledge and Ideas (6-12)
  • RST.11-12.9 Synthesize information from a range of sources (e.g., texts, experiments, simulations) into a coherent understanding of a process, phenomenon, or concept, resolving conflicting information when possible.
Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity (6-12)
  • RST.11-12.10 By the end of grade 12, read and comprehend science/technical texts in the grades 11—CCR text complexity band independently and proficiently.

This resource is part of 3 Physics Front Topical Units.


Topic: Kinematics: The Physics of Motion
Unit Title: Circular Motion

This resource guides the beginning student through characteristics of circular motion.  It is broken into five sections addressing:  the mechanics of circular motion, centripetal force,  algebraic and trigonometric problems and solutions, and a full chapter that debunks the centrifugal "force" misconception.  Interactive problems feature liberal use of diagrams and force vectors to enhance understanding.

Link to Unit:

Topic: Kinematics: The Physics of Motion
Unit Title: The Case of Roller Coasters

If you need a refresher in the basics, this is a nicely organized tutorial that addresses four topics: uniform circular motion, centripetal force, applications and mathematics of circular motion, and amusement park physics. Includes free-body diagrams, animations, and problem sets with answers.

Link to Unit:

Topic: Dynamics: Forces and Motion
Unit Title: Rotational Dynamics

This resource guides the beginning student through characteristics of circular motion.  It is broken into five sections addressing:  the mechanics of circular motion, centripetal force,  algebraic and trigonometric problems and solutions, and a full chapter that debunks the centrifugal "force" misconception.  Interactive problems feature liberal use of diagrams and force vectors to enhance understanding.

Link to Unit:
ComPADRE is beta testing Citation Styles!

Record Link
AIP Format
T. Henderson, (1996), WWW Document, (http://www.physicsclassroom.com/Class/circles/U6L1a.cfm).
AJP/PRST-PER
T. Henderson, Physics Classroom: Motion Characteristics for Circular Motion, (1996), <http://www.physicsclassroom.com/Class/circles/U6L1a.cfm>.
APA Format
Henderson, T. (2004, December 12). Physics Classroom: Motion Characteristics for Circular Motion. Retrieved October 23, 2014, from http://www.physicsclassroom.com/Class/circles/U6L1a.cfm
Chicago Format
Henderson, Tom. Physics Classroom: Motion Characteristics for Circular Motion. December 12, 2004. http://www.physicsclassroom.com/Class/circles/U6L1a.cfm (accessed 23 October 2014).
MLA Format
Henderson, Tom. Physics Classroom: Motion Characteristics for Circular Motion. 1996. 12 Dec. 2004. 23 Oct. 2014 <http://www.physicsclassroom.com/Class/circles/U6L1a.cfm>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Author = "Tom Henderson", Title = {Physics Classroom: Motion Characteristics for Circular Motion}, Volume = {2014}, Number = {23 October 2014}, Month = {December 12, 2004}, Year = {1996} }
Refer Export Format

%A Tom Henderson
%T Physics Classroom: Motion Characteristics for Circular Motion
%D December 12, 2004
%U http://www.physicsclassroom.com/Class/circles/U6L1a.cfm
%O text/html

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source
%A Henderson, Tom
%D December 12, 2004
%T Physics Classroom: Motion Characteristics for Circular Motion
%V 2014
%N 23 October 2014
%8 December 12, 2004
%9 text/html
%U http://www.physicsclassroom.com/Class/circles/U6L1a.cfm


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Physics Classroom: Motion Characteristics for Circular Motion:

Has Student Extra The Physics Classroom Calculator Pad: Circular Motion and Gravitation

Improve your problem-solving skills with problems, answers and solutions from The Calculator Pad.

relation by Tom Henderson
Has Student Extra Flickr Physics

Visit The Physics Classroom's Flickr Galleries and enjoy a visual overview of the topic of circular motion.

relation by Tom Henderson
Has Teaching Guide Shockwave Studios

The Uniform Circular Motion activity from the Shockwave Studios is an excellent accompaniment for this reading.

relation by Tom Henderson
Has Teaching Guide The Laboratory

Looking for a lab that coordinates with this page? Try the Making the Turn Lab from The Laboratory.

relation by Tom Henderson
Has Teaching Guide Curriculum Corner

Learning requires action. Give your students this sense-making activity from The Curriculum Corner.

relation by Tom Henderson

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