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Add Important Solving Motion Problems Page: 1

Notes/Cues Here Unit: Kinematics (Motion)

Solving Motion Problems


Unit: Kinematics (Motion)
NGSS Standards: N/A
MA Curriculum Frameworks (2006): 1.2
Skills:
 solve problems involving motion in two dimensions
Language Objectives:
 Set up and solve word problems relating to motion.
Notes:
We have learned five equations for solving motion problems. They are:

Equation Comments
XE "displacement"
 Definition of displacement.
d  s  s  so
XE "velocity"XE
"acceleration" Used to calculate average velocity. Note that you can’t
  
 d s v o  v use v if there is acceleration (the velocity is changing).
v  
t t 2
XE "velocity"XE
Relates velocity (v ), initial velocity (vo ), acceleration (a ),
"acceleration"
   and time (t ).
v  v  v o  at
XE "distance"XE
"displacement"XE
"velocity"XE Relates distance or displacement (d ), initial velocity
"acceleration" (vo ), acceleration (a ), and time (t ).
  
s  so  d  v o t  12 at 2
XE "distance"XE
"displacement"XE
"velocity"XE Relates distance or displacement (d ), velocity (v ), initial
"acceleration" velocity (vo ), and acceleration (a ).
  
v 2  v o2  2ad

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Physics Mr. Bigler
Add Important Solving Motion Problems Page: 2
Notes/Cues Here Unit: Kinematics (Motion)
Note that vector quantities (shown in bold with an arrow) can be positive or
negative, depending on direction.

Selecting the Right Equation


When you are faced with a problem, choose an equation based on the following
criteria:
 The equation must contain the variable you are looking for.
 All other quantities in the equation must be either given in the problem
or assumed from the description of the problem.
o If an object starts at rest (not moving), then .
v o =0
o If an object comes to a stop, then
v =0
o If gravity is involved (e.g., the object is falling),
m
a =g=9 .8

s2

This means you can choose the appropriate equation by making a list of what
you are looking for and what you know. The equation in which you know
everything except what you are looking for is the one to use.

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Physics Mr. Bigler


Add Important Solving Motion Problems Page: 3
Notes/Cues Here Unit: Kinematics (Motion)
Additional Strategies
Motion problems in physics often involve gravity. These problems usually fall
into one of two categories:
1. If you have an object in free fall, the problem will probably give
you either the distance it fell (d ), or the time it fell (t ). Use the formula
to calculate whichever one you don’t know. (If the
d=v t+ 1 a t 2
o 2
object starts from rest, that means .)
v o =0
2. If an object is thrown upwards, it will decelerate at a rate of
(assuming “up” is the positive direction) until it stops moving (
m
−9. 8
s2
). Then it will fall. This means you need to split the problem into
v =0
two parts:
a. When the object is moving upward, the initial velocity,
, is usually given and (at the top) = zero. From these,
v o v
you can use to figure out the distance it
2 2
v −v o =2 a d
traveled, which gives you the maximum height.
b. Once you know the maximum height, you know the
distance to the ground, , and you can use
v o =0 d= 1 g t 2
2
(this time with an acceleration of ) to find the time it
m
+9 . 8
s2
spends falling. The total time (up + down) will be twice as much.

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Physics Mr. Bigler


Add Important Solving Motion Problems Page: 4
Notes/Cues Here Unit: Kinematics (Motion)

Sample Problems:
Q: If a cat jumps off a 1.8 m tall refrigerator, how long does it take to hit the
ground?

A: The problem gives us d = 1.8 m. The cat is starting from rest (v a = 0), and
gravity is accelerating the cat at a rate of . We need to find t.
m
a=g=9 . 8 s2

Looking at the equations, the one that has what we need (t ) and only
quantities we know is:
1 2
d=v o t + 2 at

v o = 0, so this reduces to:


1 2
d= 2 at
1
1 . 8=( 2 )(9 .8 ) t2
1 .8
=0 . 367=t 2
4.9
t=√ 0 .367=0 . 61 s

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Physics Mr. Bigler


Add Important Solving Motion Problems Page: 5
Notes/Cues Here Unit: Kinematics (Motion)
Q: An apple falls from a tree branch at a height of 5 m and lands on Isaac
Newton’s head. (Assume Isaac Newton was 1.8 m tall.)

How fast was the apple traveling at the time of impact?

A: We know . We also know that the apple is


d=s−s o =5−1. 8=3. 2 m
starting from rest (v a = 0), and gravity is accelerating the apple at a rate of
. We want to find v.
m
a=g=9 . 8
s2

The equation that relates all of our variables is:


2 2
v −v o =2 ad

Substituting, we get:

v 2−0=(2)(9.8)(3.2)
v 2=62.7
m
v= √62.7=7.9 s

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Physics Mr. Bigler