Vernier Software and Technology
Vernier Software & Technology

Velocity Test - Interpreting Graphs

Figure from experiment 12 from Real-World Math with Vernier


When you walk, ride a bike, or travel in a car, you are often interested in the distance traveled, the time it took, and the speed or velocity of your motion. In this activity, you will learn more about how these four quantities are related.

Speed and velocity are often confused since the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. So what is the difference?  Speed is how far you have gone, divided by the time it took to move. In other words, speed tells how fast you are traveling, but without regard to direction. Since the distance you have traveled is always positive, speed is always positive.

On the other hand, velocity is the rate of change of position. Position is the directed distance from a chosen starting point, or origin. If we consider only motion on the positive side of the origin, motion away from the origin is a positive change in position, while motion toward the origin is a negative change in position. Velocity can, therefore, be either positive or negative depending upon your direction of motion. The data from a Motion Detector is a directed distance, so it can easily be used to calculate velocity.


  • Record distance versus time data for a simple motion of a walker.
  • Analyze the distance versus time data to sketch the form of a corresponding velocity versus time graph.
  • Compare this velocity graph with the velocity graph determined by DataQuest.

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 »

Real-World Math with Vernier

See other experiments from the lab book.

1Walk the Line - Straight Line Distance Graphs
2Making Cents of Math: Linear Relationship between Weight and Quantity
3Pool Plunge - Linear Relationship between Water Depth and Pressure
4Funnel Volumes - Volume and Weight
5Keep It Bottled Up - Rates of Pressure Increase
6Mix It Up - Mixing Liquids of Different Temperatures
7Spring Thing - Newton's Second Law
8Stretch It to the Limit - The Linear Force Relation for a Rubber Band
9What Goes Up - Position and Time for a Cart on a Ramp
10That's the Way the Ball Bounces - Height and Time for a Bouncing Ball
11Walk This Way - Definition of Rate
12Velocity Test - Interpreting Graphs
13From Here to There - Applications of the Distance Formula
14Under Pressure - The Inverse Relationship between Pressure and Volume
15Light at A Distance - Distance and Intensity
16Chill Out: How Hot Objects Cool
17Charging Up, Charging Down - Charging a Capacitor
18Bounce Back - The Pattern of Rebound Heights
19Sour Chemistry - The Exponential pH Change
20Swinging Ellipses - Plotting an Ellipse
21Lights Out! - Periodic Phenomena
22Tic, Toc: Pendulum Motion
23Stay Tuned: Sound Waveform Models
24Up And Down: Damped Harmonic Motion
25How Tall? Describing Data with Statistical Plots
26And Now, the Weather - Describing Data with Statistics
27Meet You at the Intersection: Solving a System of Linear Equations
28Titration Curves: An Application of the Logistic Function
29Clock Design: Period and Length of a Simple Pendulum
30Graph It in Pieces: Piecewise Defined Functions
31Stepping to the Greatest Integer: The Greatest Integer Function
32Crawling Around: Parametric Plots

Activity 12 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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