Forces and Motion

Calculating speeds

Teaching Guidance for 11-14 Supporting Physics Teaching

Using formulae

Thinking about the learning

Expressing a relationship in a form such as:

s = dt

(where: s represents speed; d represents distance covered during trip; t represents trip time or duration of trip) is a familiar skill for those of us steeped in an education in science. However, for many learners such a formula is as remote as a piece of ancient Egyptian tomb writing. Using symbols rather than words presents a hurdle for many. This along with a lack of confidence in mathematical skills, which is evident in so many pupils, often results in an I can't do this cry of resignation.

Thinking about the teaching

The key approach here is to demystify the science by keeping the examples simple and by offering lots of positive encouragement through a celebration of success. It is a good idea to use words rather than symbols in the first instance. Give plenty of examples and keep the numbers simple. This will give learners a sense of achievement.

So, more like:

speed = distancetime

Or, perhaps, more helpfully:

speed = distanceduration

appears in the relation SUVAT Equations
can be represented by Motion Graphs
has the special case Wave Speed

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