Motion Problems: Same Thing, Different Context

Calculus is about things that are changing. Certainly, things that move are changing, changing their position, velocity, and acceleration. Most calculus textbooks deal with things being dropped or thrown up into the air. This is called uniformly accelerated motion since the acceleration is due to gravity and is constant. While this is a good place to start, the problems are by their nature somewhat limited. Students often know all about uniformly accelerated motion from their physics class.

The Advanced Placement exams take motion problems to a new level. AB students often encounter particles moving along the x-axis or the y-axis (i.e. on a number line) according to a function that gives the particle’s position, velocity, or acceleration.  BC students often encounter particles moving around the plane with their coordinates given by parametric equations or their velocity given by a vector. Other times the information is given as a graph or even in a table of the position or velocity. The “particle” may become a car, or a rocket or even chief readers riding bicycles.

While these situations may not be all that “real”, they provide excellent ways to ask both differentiation and integration questions. but be aware that they are not covered that much in some textbooks; supplementing the text may be necessary.

The main derivative ideas are that velocity is the first derivative of the position function, acceleration is the second derivative of the position function and the first derivative of the velocity. Speed is the absolute value of velocity. (There will be more about speed in the next post.) The same techniques used to find the features of a graph can be applied to motion problems to determine things about the moving particle.

So, the ideas are not new, but the vocabulary is. The table below gives the terms used with graph analysis and the corresponding terms used in motion problem.

Vocabulary: Working with motion equations (position, velocity, acceleration) you really do all the same things as with regular functions and their derivatives. Help students see that while the vocabulary is different, the concepts are the same.

Function                                Linear Motion
Value of a function at x               position at time t
First derivative                            velocity
Second derivative                       acceleration
Increasing                                   moving to the right or up
Decreasing                                 moving to the left or down
Absolute Maximum                    farthest right
Absolute Minimum                     farthest left
yʹ = 0                                        “at rest”
yʹ changes sign                          object changes direction
Increasing & cc up                     speed is increasing
Increasing & cc down                speed is decreasing
Decreasing & cc up                   speed is decreasing
Decreasing & cc down              speed is increasing
Speed                                       absolute value of velocity
 

Here is a short quiz on this idea.

Revised and updated from a post originally published on November 16, 2012

Adapting 2021 BC 2

Seven of nine. This week we continue our look at the 2021 free-response questions with an eye to ways to adapt and expand the questions. Hopefully, you will find ways to use this and other free-response questions to help your students learn more and be better prepared for the exams.

2021 BC 2

This is a Parametric and Vector Equation (Type 8) question and contains topic from Unit 9 of the current Course and Exam Description. The vector equation of the velocity of a particle moving in the xy-plane is given along with the position of the particle at t = 0. No units were given.

The stem for 2021 BC 2 is next. (Note the \displaystyle \left\langle \text{ } \right\rangle notation for vectors. Any of the usual notations may be used by students, but be sure to show them the others in case the one their book usage is different than the exam’s.)

Part (a): Students were asked to find the speed and acceleration of the particle at t = 1.2. This is a calculator active questions and the students were expected, but not actually required, to use their calculator. With their calculator in parametric mode, students should begin by entering the velocity as xt1(t) and yt1(t).

Discussion and ideas for adapting this question:

  • There is little I can suggest here other than changing the time.
  • At the given time and other times, you can ask in what direction is the particle moving and which way the acceleration is pulling the velocity.
  • Ask student to do this without using their calculator. The answer need not be simplified or expressed as a decimal.

Part (b): Asked the students to find the total distance traveled by the particle over a given the time interval. This must be done on a calculator. Be sure your students know how to enter the expression using the already entered values for xt1(t) and yt1(t). The calculator entry should look like this.

\displaystyle \int_{0}^{{1.2}}{{\sqrt{{{{{\left( {\text{xt}1(t)} \right)}}^{2}}+{{{\left( {\text{yt1}(t)} \right)}}^{2}}}}}}dt

Discussion and ideas for adapting this question:

  • Use different intervals.
  • Discuss the similarities with the number line distance formula. In linear motion, the distance is simply the integral of the absolute value of the velocity. Since \displaystyle \int_{a}^{b}{{\left| {v\left( t \right)} \right|}}dt=\int_{a}^{b}{{\sqrt{{{{{\left( {v(t)} \right)}}^{2}}}}}}dt, this is the same formula reduced to one dimension.

Part (c): The situation is reduced to a one-dimensional problem: students were asked to find the coordinates of the point at which the particle is farthest left and explain why there is no point farthest to the right.

Discussion and ideas for adapting this question:

  • Discuss how to do this and how students should present their answer and explanation.
  • Show that this is the same as an extreme value problem and done the same way (i.e., find where the derivative is zero, and show that this is a minimum (farthest left), etc.).
  • Discuss how you know there is no maximum and interpret this in the context of the equation.

For further exploration. Try graphing the path of the particle. Discuss how to do that with your class. See what they suggest. Here a few approaches.

  • The first thought may be to integrate the velocity vector as an initial value problem. Unfortunately, this cannot be done. Neither the x-component nor the y-component can be integrated in terms of Elementary Functions. Even WolframAlpha.com is no help.
  • Having entered the velocity vector as xt1(t) and yt1(t), as suggested above, enter something like this depending on your calculator’s syntax and then graph in a suitable window. Compare the graph with the previous analysis in part (c)?

\displaystyle \text{x2t}(t)=-2+\int_{0}^{t}{{\text{x1t}(t)dt}}

\displaystyle \text{y2t}(t)=5+\int_{0}^{t}{{\text{y2t}(t)dt}}

  • You may also try expressing the components of velocity as a Taylor series centered at some positive number, a, not at zero. Integrate that to get an approximation to graph. Be sure to adjust things so the initial point is on the graph. WolframAlpha will help here. The one problem here is that the y-component is not defined for negative numbers. Therefore, zero cannt be then center and the largest the interval of convergence can be is [0, 2a] (Why?) and may not even by that large. This is an interesting approach mathematically but will not help with most of the graph.

Personal opinion: I do not think much of this question because all the first two parts require is entering the formula in your calculator and computing the answer, and the third part is really an AB level question. Just my opinion.


Seven of Nine

Next week 2021 BC 5

I would be happy to hear your ideas for other ways to use this question. Please use the reply box below to share your ideas.


Adapting 2021 AB 2

Two of nine. Continuing the series started in my last post, this post looks at the AB Calculus 2021 exam question AB 2. The series looks at each question with the aim of showing ways to use the question in with your class as is or by adapting and expanding it.  Like most of the AP Exam questions there is a lot more you can ask from the stem and a lot of other calculus you can discuss.

2021 AB 2

This is a Linear Motion Problem (Type 2) and has topics from Unit 4 of the current Course and Exam Description. Two particles are moving on the x-axis and the questions ask about their motion individually and relative to each other. The velocity and initial position are given for each particle. Parts (a), (c), and (d) are typical; (b) is the core of the problem.

The stem is:

Part (a): Students are asked to find the position of each particle at time t = 1.

Discussion and ideas for adapting this question:

  • The expected approach is to calculate for each particle the initial position plus the displacement from t = 0 to t = 1. So, for P the computation is  P\left( 1 \right)=5+\int_{0}^{1}{{\sin \left( {{{t}^{{1.5}}}} \right)}}dt and similarly for Q(1). This is a calculator allowed question and students should use their calculator to find the answer and not do it by hand.
  • A different approach is to work it as an initial value differential equation problem. This will work but takes longer than the approach suggested above.
  • In class, it is worth discussing both methods.
  • You can adapt this by using a different time.
  • Another question is to find (only) the displacement if each particle over some time interval. Displacement has been asked in other years.
  • Ask “Will the particles ever collide? If so when and justify your answer. (Answer: no)

Part (b): Students were asked to determine if the particles are moving apart or towards each other at time t = 1. This is the main question and requires a careful analysis of their motion.

Discussion and ideas for adapting this question:

  • To determine this, students need to consider the velocity of the particles and their position (from part (a)). P is to the left of Q and moving right. Q is to the right of P and moving left, therefore, the distance between them is decreasing.
  • You can practice this analysis by using different times.
  • Ask students to carefully describe the motion of one or both particles: when it is moving left and right, when it changes direction, find the local maximum and minimum positions, etc. Notice that this is really the same as analyzing the shape of a graph. The connection between the two problems will help students understand both better. See: Motion Problems: Same Thing, Different Context

Part (c): A question about speed.

Discussion and ideas for adapting this question:

  • A typical question. Students should compare the signs of the velocity and acceleration of the particle. If they are the same, the speed is increasing; if different, decreasing.
  • You may ask this of the other particle.
  • You may ask this at different times.
  • See previous posts on speed here and here.

Part (d): Students were required to find the total distanced traveled by Q on the interval [0, π].

Discussion and ideas for adapting this question:

  • Since speed is the absolute value of the velocity, integrate the absolute value of the velocity. Do this on a calculator.
  • Adapt this by using a different interval.
  • Adapt this by using the other particle.
  • Another (longer) way to approach this question is to find where the particle changes direction by finding where the velocity changes from negative to positive and/or vice versa (i.e., the local extreme values). Then find the distanced traveled on each part of the “trip,” and add or subtract. This will reinforce a lot of the concepts involved in linear motion; that is why it is worth doing. As for the exam, integrating the absolute value is the way to go. However, if this were a non-calculator question, then it would have to be done this way. Find a simpler velocity and try it both ways.
  • To integrate the absolute value by hand, it is necessary to break the interval into subintervals depending on where the velocity is positive or negative. This is the same as the approach in the bullet immediately above. This, too, is worth showing to reinforce the definition of absolute value.

2021 revised as an in-out question.

There was some unhappiness over the fact that the 2021 AB Calculus exam did not have an in-out questions (Rate and Accumulation Type 1). However, this question does have two rates going in opposite directions. So, just to be ornery, I rewrote it as an in-out questions by changing the context and units while keeping the same velocity functions. The point is that the situation tested can be reframed in other ways. Seeing the same thing in different dress may help students concentrate on the calculus involved. Here it is:

A factory processes cement at the rate of  \displaystyle {{v}_{p}}\left( t \right)=\sin \left( {{{t}^{{1.5}}}} \right) tons per hour for \displaystyle 0\le t\le \pi hours. At time t = 0 the amount on hand is P = 5 tons.

The factory ships the cement at a rate given by  \displaystyle {{v}_{Q}}\left( t \right)=\left( {t-1.8} \right){{1.25}^{t}} tons per hour for \displaystyle 0\le t\le \pi hours. At time t = 0 the amount shipped is 10 tons.

  1. Find the amount processed and the amount shipped after hour.
  2. Is the amount on hand increasing or decreasing at time t = 1? Explain your reasoning.
  3. At what rate is the rate at which the cement is being shipped changing at t = 1? Is the amount being shipped increasing or decreasing at t = 1? Explain your reasoning.
  4. Find the total amount of cement processed over the time interval \displaystyle 0\le t\le \pi .

Next week 2021 AB 3/ BC 3.

I would be happy to hear your ideas for other ways to use this questions. Please use the reply box below to share your ideas.


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:

 

 

 

 


 

Type 2 Questions: Linear Motion

We continue the discussion of the various type questions on the AP Calculus Exams with linear motion questions.

“A particle (or car, or bicycle) moves on a number line ….”

These questions may give the position equation, the velocity equation (most often), or the acceleration equation of something that is moving, along with an initial condition. The questions ask for information about motion of the particle: its direction, when it changes direction, its maximum position in one direction (farthest left or right), its speed, etc.

The particle may be a “particle,” a person, car, a rocket, etc.  Particles don’t really move in this way, so the equation or graph should be considered to be a model. The question is a versatile way to test a variety of calculus concepts since the position, velocity, or acceleration may be given as an equation, a graph, or a table; be sure to use examples of all three forms during the review.

Many of the concepts related to motion problems are the same as those related to function and graph analysis (Type 3). Stress the similarities and show students how the same concepts go by different names. For example, finding when a particle is “farthest right” is the same as finding the when a function reaches its “absolute maximum value.” See my post for November 16, 2012 for a list of these corresponding terms. There is usually one free-response question and three or more multiple-choice questions on this topic.

The position, s(t), is a function of time. The relationships are:

  • The velocity is the derivative of the position, {s}'\left( t \right)=v\left( t \right). Velocity is has direction (indicated by its sign) and magnitude. Technically, velocity is a vector; the term “vector” will not appear on the AB exam.
  • Speed is the absolute value of velocity; it is a number, not a vector. See my post for November 19, 2012.
  • Acceleration is the derivative of velocity and the second derivative of position, \displaystyle a\left( t \right)={v}'\left( t \right)={{s}'}'\left( t \right). It, too, has direction and magnitude and is a vector.
  • Velocity is the antiderivative of the acceleration
  • Position is the antiderivative of velocity.

What students should be able to do:

  • Understand and use the relationships above.
  • Distinguish between position at some time and the total distance traveled during the time period.
  • The total distance traveled is the definite integral of the speed (absolute value of velocity) \displaystyle \int_{a}^{b}{\left| v\left( t \right) \right|}\,dt.
  • The net distance traveled, displacement, is the definite integral of the velocity (rate of change): \displaystyle \int_{a}^{b}{v\left( t \right)}\,dt. Note that “displacement” has not been used preciously on AP exam, but (as per the new Course and Exam Description) may be used now. Be sure your students know this term.
  • The final position is the initial position plus the displacement (definite integral of the rate of change from xa to x = t): \displaystyle s\left( t \right)=s\left( a \right)+\int_{a}^{t}{v\left( x \right)}\,dx Notice that this is an accumulation function equation (Type 1).
  • Initial value differential equation problems: given the velocity or acceleration with initial condition(s) find the position or velocity. These are easily handled with the accumulation equation in the bullet above.
  • Find the speed at a given time. The speed is the absolute value of the velocity.
  • Find average speed, velocity, or acceleration
  • Determine if the speed is increasing or decreasing.
    • If at some time, the velocity and acceleration have the same sign then the speed is increasing.If they have different signs the speed is decreasing.
    • If the velocity graph is moving away from (towards) the t-axis the speed is increasing (decreasing). See my post for November 19, 2012.
    • There is also a worksheet on speed here
    • THe analytic approach to speed: A Note on Speed
  • Use a difference quotient to approximate derivative.
  • Riemann sum approximations.
  • Units of measure.
  • Interpret meaning of a derivative or a definite integral in context of the problem

Shorter questions on this concept appear in the multiple-choice sections. As always, look over as many questions of this kind from past exams as you can find.

This may be an AB or BC question. The BC topic of motion in a plane, (Type 8: parametric equations and vectors) will be discussed in a later post.

Free-response examples:

  • Equation stem 2017 AB 5,
  • Graph stem: 2009 AB1/BC1,
  • Table stem 2015 AB 3/BC3

Multiple-choice examples from non-secure exams:

  • 2012 AB 6, 16, 28, 79, 83, 89
  • 2012 BC 2, 89

 

 

 

 

Updated January 31, 2019, March 12, 2021

A Note on Speed

A quick note on speed.

The idea of differentiating speed to determine where it is increasing or decreasing is perfectly reasonable.

\displaystyle \text{Speed}=s(t)=\left| {v\left( t \right)} \right|=\sqrt{{{{{\left( {v(t)} \right)}}^{2}}}}. Then,

\displaystyle {s}'\left( t \right)=\frac{{2v\left( t \right){v}'\left( t \right)}}{{2\sqrt{{{{{\left( {v(t)} \right)}}^{2}}}}}}=\frac{{v\left( t \right)a\left( t \right)}}{{\sqrt{{{{{\left( {v(t)} \right)}}^{2}}}}}}

Since the denominator is positive, \displaystyle {s}'\left( t \right)>0 and speed is increasing when \displaystyle v\left( t \right) and \displaystyle a\left( t \right) have the same sign, and \displaystyle {s}'\left( t \right)<0 and speed is decreasing when they have different signs.

As a practical matter, this is the “long way.” It requires you to calculate the sign of the velocity and acceleration and some other stuff. So, the traditional way, without the other stuff, is faster. On the other hand, it carries over nicely to higher dimensions where the velocity and acceleration vectors do not have signs, per se. 

See also a previous post on Speed here.

(This occurred to me in the shower this morning; I don’t think I ever realized it before – TMI.)

Motion on a Line

AP Type Questions 4

These questions may give the position equation, the velocity equation or the acceleration equation of something that is moving, along with an initial condition. The questions ask for information about motion of the particle: its direction, when it changes direction, its maximum position in one direction (farthest left or right), its speed, etc.  

The particle may be a “particle,” a person, car, a rocket, etc.  Particles don’t really move in this way, so the equation or graph should be considered to be a model. The question is a versatile way to test a variety of calculus concepts.

The position, velocity or acceleration may be given as an equation, a graph or a table; be sure to use examples of all three forms during the review. 

Many of the concepts related to motion problems are the same as those related to function and graph analysis. Stress the similarities and show students how the same concepts go by different names. For example, finding when a particle is “farthest right” is the same as finding the when a function reaches its “absolute maximum value.” See my post for November 16, 2012 for a list of these corresponding terms.

The position, s(t), is a function of time. The relationships are

  • The velocity is the derivative of the position, {s}'\left( t \right)=v\left( t \right). Velocity is has direction (indicated by its sign) and magnitude. Technically, velocity is a vector; the term “vector” will not appear on the AB exam.
  • Speed is the absolute value of velocity; it is a number, not a vector. See my post for November 19, 2012.
  • Acceleration is the derivative of velocity and the second derivative of position, \displaystyle a\left( t \right)={v}'\left( t \right)={{s}'}'\left( t \right). It, too, has direction and magnitude and is a vector.
  • Velocity is the antiderivative of the acceleration
  • Position is the antiderivative of velocity.

What students should be able to do:

  • Understand and use the relationships above.
  • Distinguish between position at some time and the total distance traveled during the time
    • The total distance traveled is the definite integral of the speed \displaystyle \int_{a}^{b}{\left| v\left( t \right) \right|}\,dt:
    • The net distance (displacement) is the definite integral of the velocity (rate of change): \displaystyle \int_{a}^{b}{v\left( t \right)}\,dt
    • The final position is the initial position plus the definite integral of the rate of change from x = a to x = t: \displaystyle s\left( t \right)=s\left( a \right)+\int_{a}^{t}{v\left( x \right)}\,dx Notice that this is an accumulation function equation.
  • Initial value differential equation problems: given the velocity or acceleration with initial condition(s) find the position or velocity. These are easily handled with the accumulation equation in the bullet above.
  • Find the speed at a particular time. The speed is the absolute value of the velocity.
  • Find average speed, velocity, or acceleration
  • Determine if the speed is increasing or decreasing.
    • If at some time, the velocity and acceleration have the same sign then the speed is increasing.
    • If they have different signs the speed is decreasing.
    • If the velocity graph is moving away from (towards) the t-axis the speed is increasing (decreasing).
  • Use a difference quotient to approximate derivative
  • Riemann sum approximations
  • Units of measure
  • Interpret meaning of a derivative or a definite integral in context of the problem

Shorter questions on this concept appear in the multiple-choice sections. As always, look over as many questions of this kind from past exams as you can find.

For some previous posts on this subject see November 16, 19, 2012, January 21, 2013. There is also a worksheet on speed here and on the Resources pages (click at the top of this page).

The BC topic of motion in a plane, (parametric equations and vectors) will be discussed in a later post (March 15, 2013, tentative date)