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An Introduction to the Types of Motion

By Kathy Foust

Increase your understanding of motion using this motion study guide which discusses terms like acceleration, velocity and speed.

Use this study guide as a reference sheet for learning about the different types of motion and their formulas. This study guide will go over the basic concepts of motion in a very simplified manner.

Terms of Motion

Use this list of terms as a reference for motion lesson plans.

  • position - location of an object. For example the watch is on the dresser. The dresser is the location.
  • motion - an item's change in position.
  • scalar - number that represents one term of movement such as speed. Does not represent speed and direction. For example, 55 MPH is a scalar quantity.
  • vector - has magnitude and direction. Would represent speed and direction. For instance, 55 MPH South is a vector quantity.
  • speed - scalar quantity. Measures only rate of motion.
  • velocity - vector quantity. Measures speed and direction.
  • acceleration - vector quantity. Name given to a result of change in speed, direction or both. An example of acceleration would be when a car speeds up or turns a corner. Defined as the time rate of change.

Formulas for Motion

  • Speed formula: average speed = distance traveled/time to travel distance (Average speed equals distance traveled divided by time to travel distance). The answer will list a number to represent speed as well as which types of units were measured for amount of distance traveled as well as amount of time it took to travel the distance. For example if the answer is measured in meters per second the answer and the number for the answer is two, then the answer will look like this -- 2 m/s.
  • Velocity formula: If the motion is constant and in one direction, the speed formula is used and the direction is written and understood as well as the speed. Using the example above for instance, the answer is two miles per second or 2 m/s, but now you need to include the direction. If the movement is North the answer would read 2 m/s N or 2 m/s north.
  • Acceleration formula: average acceleration = change in velocity/time for change to occur. Using constant acceleration, the answer is written as m/s2 (meters divided by seconds squared).