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Graph It in Pieces: Piecewise Defined Functions

Figure from experiment 30 from Real-World Math with Vernier


Graphs of real-world data cannot always be described with one simple equation. Often the graph is made up of separate pieces which together describe an event. If you move back and forth in front of a Motion Detector, your motion could be described in separate pieces which together would describe the total motion. Functions which are defined in pieces are called piecewise-defined functions.

In this activity, you will create a graph by moving back and forth in front of a Motion Detector. You will then describe your motion by writing a piecewise-defined function for the motion.


  • Record motion data for a walker.
  • Describe segments of the walker's motion using linear functions.
  • Model the motion data using a piece-wise continuous function assembled from linear functions.

Sensors and Equipment

This activity features the following Vernier sensors and equipment.

Option 1

Option 2

Additional Requirements

You may also need an interface and software for data collection. What do I need for data collection?

Standards Correlations

See all standards correlations for Real-World Math with Vernier »

Activity 30 from Real-World Math with Vernier Lab Book

<i>Real-World Math with Vernier</i> book cover

Included in the Lab Book

Vernier lab books include word-processing files of the student instructions, essential teacher information, suggested answers, sample data and graphs, and more.

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