Using A Force Table To Motivate Systems


Kelly Black and John B. Geddes

University of New Hampshire


Force tables are used in physics labs to motivate the difference between size and direction of force vectors. We have adapted the force table as a way to motivate how systems of equations are used to model movement in two dimensions. We have focused on the dynamic aspects and have taken the force table out of the physics lab and brought it into the mathematics class room.  We use the apparatus throughout a course to demonstrate how to construct systems of equations for both the static and dynamic problem, root finding for the static problem when the balance point is unknown, systems of differential equations to  describe the dynamic problem, and to motivate the idea of the potential.


We will discuss how this one experiment allows the students explore the idea of ``path'' and its parameterizations, equilibrium, and non-linear systems of equations. The force table allows students to engage in an hands-on-experiment that is both challenging and exciting. Moreover, this one experiment requires that the students pull together a wide variety of topics to examine one particular problem.