Parametric and Vector Equations (Type 8)

AP Questions Type 8: Parametric and Vector Equations (BC Only)

The parametric/vector equation questions only concern motion in a plane. Other topics, such as dot product and cross product, are not tested.

In the plane, the position of a moving object as a function of time, t, can be specified by a pair of parametric equations \displaystyle x=x\left( t \right)\text{ and }y=y\left( t \right) or the equivalent vector \displaystyle \left\langle {x\left( t \right),y\left( t \right)} \right\rangle . The path is the curve traced by the parametric equations or the tips of the position vector. .

The velocity of the movement in the x- and y-direction is given by the vector \displaystyle \left\langle {{x}'\left( t \right),{y}'\left( t \right)} \right\rangle . The vector sum of the components gives the direction of motion. Attached to the tip of the position vector this vector is tangent to the path pointing in the direction of motion.

The length of this vector is the speed of the moving object. Speed = \displaystyle \sqrt{{{{{\left( {{x}'\left( t \right)} \right)}}^{2}}+{{{\left( {{y}'\left( t \right)} \right)}}^{2}}}}. (Notice that this is the same as the speed of a particle moving on the number line with one less parameter: On the number line speed \displaystyle =\left| {v\left( t \right)} \right|=\sqrt{{{{{\left( {{x}'\left( t \right)} \right)}}^{2}}}}.)

The acceleration is given by the vector \displaystyle \left\langle {{x}''\left( t \right),{y}''\left( t \right)} \right\rangle .

What students should know how to do:

  • Vectors may be written using parentheses, ( ), or pointed brackets, \displaystyle \left\langle {} \right\rangle , or even \displaystyle \vec{i},\vec{j} form. The pointed brackets seem to be the most popular right now, but all common notations are allowed and will be recognized by readers.
  • Find the speed at time t: Speed = \displaystyle \sqrt{{{{{\left( {{x}'\left( t \right)} \right)}}^{2}}+{{{\left( {{y}'\left( t \right)} \right)}}^{2}}}}.
  • Use the definite integral for arc length to find the distance traveled \displaystyle \int_{a}^{b}{{\sqrt{{{{{\left( {{x}'\left( t \right)} \right)}}^{2}}+{{{\left( {{y}'\left( t \right)} \right)}}^{2}}}}}}. Notice that this is the integral of the speed (rate times time = distance).
  • The slope of the path is \displaystyle \frac{{dy}}{{dx}}=\frac{{{y}'\left( t \right)}}{{{x}'\left( t \right)}}. See this post for more on finding the first and second derivatives with respect to x.
  • Determine when the particle is moving left or right,
  • Determine when the particle is moving up or down,
  • Find the extreme position (farthest left, right, up, down, or distance from the origin).
  • Given the position find the velocity by differentiating.
  • Given the velocity, find the acceleration by differentiating.
  • Given the acceleration and the velocity at some point find the velocity by integrating.
  • Given the velocity and the position at some point find the position by integrating. These are just initial value differential equation problems (IVP).
  • Dot product and cross product are not tested on the BC exam, nor are other aspects.

When this topic appears on the free-response section of the exam there is no polar equation free-response question and vice versa. When not on the free-response section there are one or more multiple-choice questions on parametric equations.


Free-response questions:

  • 2012 BC 2
  • 2016 BC 2
  • 2021 BC 2
  • 2022 BC2 – slope of tangent line, speed, position, total distance traveled

Multiple-choice questions from non-secure exams

  • 2003 BC 4, 7, 17, 84
  • 2008 BC 1, 5, 28
  • 2012 BC 2

This question typically covers topics from Unit 9 of the CED.


Revised March 12, 2021, April 5, and May 14, 2022

Unit 9 – Parametric Equations, Polar Coordinates, and Vector-Valued Functions

Unit 9 includes all the topics listed in the title. These are BC only topics (CED – 2019 p. 163 – 176). These topics account for about 11 – 12% of questions on the BC exam.

Comments on Prerequisites: In BC Calculus the work with parametric, vector, and polar equations is somewhat limited. I always hoped that students had studied these topics in detail in their precalculus classes and had more precalculus knowledge and experience with them than is required for the BC exam. This will help them in calculus, so see that they are included in your precalculus classes.

Topics 9.1 – 9.3 Parametric Equations

Topic 9.1: Defining and Differentiation Parametric Equations. Finding dy/dx in terms of dy/dt and dx/dt

Topic 9.2: Second Derivatives of Parametric Equations. Finding the second derivative. See Implicit Differentiation of Parametric Equations this discusses the second derivative.

Topic 9.3: Finding Arc Lengths of Curves Given by Parametric Equations. 

Topics 9.4 – 9.6 Vector-Valued Functions and Motion in the plane

Topic 9.4 : Defining and Differentiating Vector-Valued Functions. Finding the second derivative. See this A Vector’s Derivatives which includes a note on second derivatives. 

Topic 9.5: Integrating Vector-Valued Functions

Topic 9.6: Solving Motion Problems Using Parametric and Vector-Valued Functions. Position, Velocity, acceleration, speed, total distance traveled, and displacement extended to motion in the plane. 

Topics 9.7 – 9.9 Polar Equation and Area in Polar Form.

Topic 9.7: Defining Polar Coordinate and Differentiation in Polar Form. The derivatives and their meaning.

Topic 9.8: Find the Area of a Polar Region or the Area Bounded by a Single Polar Curve

Topic 9.9: Finding the Area of the Region Bounded by Two Polar Curves. Students should know how to find the intersections of polar curves to use for the limits of integration. 


Timing

The suggested time for Unit 9 is about 10 – 11 BC classes of 40 – 50-minutes, this includes time for testing etc.


Previous posts on these topics:

Parametric and Vector Equations

Implicit Differentiation of Parametric Equations

A Vector’s Derivatives

Adapting 2012 BC 2 (A parametric equation question)

Polar Curves

Polar Equations for AP Calculus

Extreme Polar Conditions

Implicit Differentiation of Parametric Equations

I’ve never liked memorizing formulas. I would rather know where they came from or be able to tie it to something I already know. One of my least favorite formulas to remember and explain was the formula for the second derivative of a curve given in parametric form. No longer.

If \displaystyle y=y(t) and, \displaystyle x=x(t) then the traditional formulas give

\displaystyle \frac{{dy}}{{dx}}=\frac{{dy/dt}}{{dx/dt}}, and

\displaystyle \frac{{{{d}^{2}}y}}{{d{{x}^{2}}}}=\frac{{\frac{d}{{dt}}\left( {\frac{{dy}}{{dx}}} \right)}}{{\frac{{dx}}{{dt}}}}

It is that last part, where you divide by \displaystyle {\frac{{dx}}{{dt}}}, that bothers me. Where did the \displaystyle {\frac{{dx}}{{dt}}} come from?

Then it occurred to me that dividing by \displaystyle {\frac{{dx}}{{dt}}} is the same as multiplying by \displaystyle {\frac{{dt}}{{dx}}}

It’s just implicit differentiation!

Since \displaystyle \frac{{dy}}{{dx}} is a function of t you must begin by differentiating the first derivative with respect to t. Then treating this as a typical Chain Rule situation and multiplying by \displaystyle {\frac{{dt}}{{dx}}} gives the second derivative. (There is a technical requirement here that given \displaystyle x=x(t), then its inverse \displaystyle t={{x}^{{-1}}}\left( x \right) exists.)

In fact, if you look at a proof of the formula for the first derivative, that’s what happens there as well:

\displaystyle \frac{d}{{dx}}y(t)=\frac{{dy}}{{dt}}\cdot \frac{{dt}}{{dx}}=\frac{{dy/dt}}{{dx/dt}}

The reason you do it this way is that since x is given as a function of t, it may be difficult to solve for t so you can find dt/dx in terms of x. But you don’t have to; just divide by dx/dt which you already know.

Here is an example for both derivatives.

Suppose that \displaystyle x={{t}^{3}}-3 and \displaystyle y=\ln \left( t \right)

Then \displaystyle \frac{{dy}}{{dt}}=\frac{1}{t} and \displaystyle \frac{{dx}}{{dt}}=3{{t}^{2}} and \displaystyle \frac{{dt}}{{dx}}=\frac{1}{{3{{t}^{2}}}}

Then \displaystyle \frac{{dy}}{{dx}}=\frac{1}{t}\cdot \frac{{dt}}{{dx}}=\frac{1}{t}\cdot \frac{1}{{3{{t}^{2}}}}=\frac{1}{3}{{t}^{{-3}}}

And \displaystyle \frac{{{{d}^{2}}y}}{{d{{x}^{2}}}}=\left( {\frac{d}{{dt}}\left( {\frac{{dy}}{{dx}}} \right)} \right)\cdot \frac{{dt}}{{dx}}=\left( {-{{t}^{{-4}}}} \right)\cdot \left( {\frac{1}{{3{{t}^{2}}}}} \right)=-\frac{1}{{3{{t}^{6}}}}

Yes, it’s the same thing as using the traditional formula, but now I’ll never have to worry about forgetting the formula or being unsure how to explain why you do it this way.

Revised: Correction to last equation 5/18/2014. Revised: 2/8/2016. Originally posted May 5, 2014.

Parametric Equations, Polar Coordinates, and Vector-Valued Functions – Unit 9

Unit 9 includes all the topics listed in the title. These are BC only topics (CED – 2019 p. 163 – 176). These topics account for about 11 – 12% of questions on the BC exam.

Comments on Prerequisites: In BC Calculus the work with parametric, vector, and polar equations is somewhat limited. I always hoped that students had studied these topics in detail in their precalculus classes and had more precalculus knowledge and experience with them than is required for the BC exam. This will help them in calculus, so see that they are included in your precalculus classes.

Topics 9.1 – 9.3 Parametric Equations

Topic 9.1: Defining and Differentiation Parametric Equations. Finding dy/dx in terms of dy/dt and dx/dt

Topic 9.2: Second Derivatives of Parametric Equations. Finding the second derivative. See Implicit Differentiation of Parametric Equations this discusses the second derivative.

Topic 9.3: Finding Arc Lengths of Curves Given by Parametric Equations. 

Topics 9.4 – 9.6 Vector-Valued Functions and Motion in the plane

Topic 9.4 : Defining and Differentiating Vector-Valued Functions. Finding the second derivative. See this A Vector’s Derivatives which includes a note on second derivatives. 

Topic 9.5: Integrating Vector-Valued Functions

Topic 9.6: Solving Motion Problems Using Parametric and Vector-Valued Functions. Position, Velocity, acceleration, speed, total distance traveled, and displacement extended to motion in the plane. 

Topics 9.7 – 9.9 Polar Equation and Area in Polar Form.

Topic 9.7: Defining Polar Coordinate and Differentiation in Polar Form. The derivatives and their meaning.

Topic 9.8: Find the Area of a Polar Region or the Area Bounded by a Single Polar Curve

Topic 9.9: Finding the Area of the Region Bounded by Two Polar Curves. Students should know how to find the intersections of polar curves to use for the limits of integration. 


Timing

The suggested time for Unit 9 is about 10 – 11 BC classes of 40 – 50-minutes, this includes time for testing etc.


Previous posts on these topics :

Parametric Equations

Vector Valued Functions

Polar Form

Parametric and Vector Equations (Type 8)

AP  Questions Type 8: Parametric and Vector Equations (BC Only)

The parametric/vector equation questions only concern motion in a plane. Other topics, such as dot product and cross product, are not tested.

In the plane, the position of a moving object as a function of time, t, can be specified by a pair of parametric equations x=x\left( t \right)\text{ and }y=y\left( t \right) or the equivalent vector \left\langle x\left( t \right),y\left( t \right) \right\rangle . The path is the curve traced by the parametric equations or the tips of the position vector. .

The velocity of the movement in the x- and y-direction is given by the vector \left\langle {x}'\left( t \right),{y}'\left( t \right) \right\rangle . The vector sum of the components gives the direction of motion. Attached to the tip of the position vector this vector is tangent to the path pointing in the direction of motion.

The length of this vector is the speed of the moving object. \text{Speed }=\sqrt{{{\left( {x}'\left( t \right) \right)}^{2}}+{{\left( {y}'\left( t \right) \right)}^{2}}}. (Notice that this is the same as the speed of a particle moving on the number line with one less parameter: On the number line \text{Speed}=\left| v \right|=\sqrt{{{\left( {x}'\left( t \right) \right)}^{2}}}.)

The acceleration is given by the vector \left\langle {{x}'}'\left( t \right),{{y}'}'\left( t \right) \right\rangle .

What students should know how to do:

  • Vectors may be written using parentheses, ( ), or pointed brackets, \left\langle {} \right\rangle , or even \vec{i},\vec{j} form. The pointed brackets seem to be the most popular right now, but all common notations are allowed and will be recognized by readers.
  • Find the speed at time t\text{Speed }=\sqrt{{{\left( {x}'\left( t \right) \right)}^{2}}+{{\left( {y}'\left( t \right) \right)}^{2}}}
  • Use the definite integral for arc length to find the distance traveled \displaystyle \int_{a}^{b}{\sqrt{{{\left( {x}'\left( t \right) \right)}^{2}}+{{\left( {y}'\left( t \right) \right)}^{2}}}}dt. Notice that this is the integral of the speed (rate times time = distance).
  • The slope of the path is \displaystyle \frac{dy}{dx}=\frac{{y}'\left( t \right)}{{x}'\left( t \right)}. See this post for more on finding the first and second derivatives with respect to x.
  • Determine when the particle is moving left or right,
  • Determine when the particle is moving up or down,
  • Find the extreme position (farthest left, right, up, down, or distance from the origin).
  • Given the position find the velocity by differentiating;
  • Given the velocity find the acceleration by differentiating.
  • Given the acceleration and the velocity at some point find the velocity by integrating.
  • Given the velocity and the position at some point find the position by integrating. These are just initial value differential equation problems (IVP).
  • Dot product and cross product are not tested on the BC exam, nor are other aspects.

When this topic appears on the free-response section of the exam there is no polar equation free-response question and vice versa. When not on the free-response section there are one or more multiple-choice questions on parametric equations.


Free-response questions:

  • 2012 BC 2
  • 2016 BC 2

Multiple-choice questions from non-secure exams

  • 2003 BC 4, 7, 17, 84
  • 2008 BC 1, 5, 28
  • 2012 BC 2

This question typically covers topics from Unit 9 of the 2019 CED .


 

 

 

 

 

 

Revised March 12, 2021

2019 CED Unit 9: Parametric Equations, Polar Coordinates, and Vector-Valued Functions

Unit 9 includes all the topics listed in the title. These are BC only topics (CED – 2019 p. 163 – 176). These topics account for about 11 – 12% of questions on the BC exam.

Comments on Prerequisites: In BC Calculus the work with parametric, vector, and polar equations is somewhat limited. I always hoped that students had studied these topics in detail in their precalculus classes and had more precalculus knowledge and experience with them than is required for the BC exam. This will help them in calculus, so see that they are included in your precalculus classes.

Topics 9.1 – 9.3 Parametric Equations

Topic 9.1: Defining and Differentiation Parametric Equations. Finding dy/dx in terms of dy/dt and dx/dt

Topic 9.2: Second Derivatives of Parametric Equations. Finding the second derivative. See Implicit Differentiation of Parametric Equations this discusses the second derivative.

Topic 9.3: Finding Arc Lengths of Curves Given by Parametric Equations. 

Topics 9.4 – 9.6 Vector-Valued Functions and Motion in the plane

Topic 9.4 : Defining and Differentiating Vector-Valued Functions. Finding the second derivative. See this A Vector’s Derivatives which includes a note on second derivatives. 

Topic 9.5: Integrating Vector-Valued Functions

Topic 9.6: Solving Motion Problems Using Parametric and Vector-Valued Functions. Position, Velocity, acceleration, speed, total distance traveled, and displacement extended to motion in the plane. 

Topics 9.7 – 9.9 Polar Equation and Area in Polar Form.

Topic 9.7: Defining Polar Coordinate and Differentiation in Polar Form. The derivatives and their meaning.

Topic 9.8: Find the Area of a Polar Region or the Area Bounded by a Single Polar Curve

Topic 9.9: Finding the Area of the Region Bounded by Two Polar Curves. Students should know how to find the intersections of polar curves to use for the limits of integration. 


Timing

The suggested time for Unit 9 is about 10 – 11 BC classes of 40 – 50-minutes, this includes time for testing etc.


Previous posts on these topics :

Parametric Equations

Vector Valued Functions

Polar Form

Type 8: Parametric and Vector Questions

The parametric/vector equation questions only concern motion in a plane.

In the plane, the position of a moving object as a function of time, t, can be specified by a pair of parametric equations x=x\left( t \right)\text{ and }y=y\left( t \right) or the equivalent vector \left\langle x\left( t \right),y\left( t \right) \right\rangle . The path is the curve traced by the parametric equations or the tips of the position vector. .

The velocity of the movement in the x- and y-direction is given by the vector \left\langle {x}'\left( t \right),{y}'\left( t \right) \right\rangle . The vector sum of the components gives the direction of motion. Attached to the tip of the position vector this vector is tangent to the path pointing in the direction of motion.

The length of this vector is the speed of the moving object. \text{Speed }=\sqrt{{{\left( {x}'\left( t \right) \right)}^{2}}+{{\left( {y}'\left( t \right) \right)}^{2}}}. (Notice that this is the same as the speed of a particle moving on the number line with one less parameter: On the number line \text{Speed}=\left| v \right|=\sqrt{{{\left( {x}'\left( t \right) \right)}^{2}}}.)

The acceleration is given by the vector \left\langle {{x}'}'\left( t \right),{{y}'}'\left( t \right) \right\rangle .

What students should know how to do:

  • Vectors may be written using parentheses, ( ), or pointed brackets, \left\langle {} \right\rangle , or even \vec{i},\vec{j} form. The pointed brackets seem to be the most popular right now, but all common notations are allowed and will be recognized by readers.
  • Find the speed at time t\text{Speed }=\sqrt{{{\left( {x}'\left( t \right) \right)}^{2}}+{{\left( {y}'\left( t \right) \right)}^{2}}}
  • Use the definite integral for arc length to find the distance traveled \displaystyle \int_{a}^{b}{\sqrt{{{\left( {x}'\left( t \right) \right)}^{2}}+{{\left( {y}'\left( t \right) \right)}^{2}}}}dt. Notice that this is the integral of the speed (rate times time = distance).
  • The slope of the path is \displaystyle \frac{dy}{dx}=\frac{{y}'\left( t \right)}{{x}'\left( t \right)}. See this post for more on finding the first and second derivatives with respect to x.
  • Determine when the particle is moving left or right,
  • Determine when the particle is moving up or down,
  • Find the extreme position (farthest left, right, up, down, or distance from the origin).
  • Given the position find the velocity by differentiating; given the velocity find the acceleration by differentiating.
  • Given the acceleration and the velocity at some point find the velocity by integrating; given the velocity and the position at some point find the position by integrating. These are just initial value differential equation problems (IVP).
  • Dot product and cross product are not tested on the BC exam, nor are other aspects.

When this topic appears on the free-response section of the exam there is no polar equation question and vice versa. When not on the free-response section there are one or more multiple-choice questions on parametric equations.


Free-response questions:

  • 2012 BC 2
  • 2016 BC 2

Multiple-choice questions from non-secure exams

  • 2003 BC 4, 7, 17, 84
  • 2008 BC 1, 5, 28
  • 2012 BC 2

Schedule of review postings: