Lesson Plan: Centripetal Force Physics

This lesson plan includes the objectives, prerequisites, and exclusions of the lesson teaching students how to analyze the magnitudes, directions, and sources of forces that act on objects moving along circular paths.


Students will be able to

  • define the term centripetal force as a force acting toward a central point,
  • recognize that a constant centripetal force produces a constant acceleration of an object toward the center of a circular path that the object moves along at a constant speed,
  • calculate the magnitude of a centripetal force using 𝐹=π‘šπ‘£π‘ŸοŠ¨ and 𝐹=π‘šπ‘Ÿπœ”οŠ¨,
  • recognize that 𝐹=π‘šπ‘£π‘ŸοŠ¨ and 𝐹=π‘šπ‘Ÿπœ”οŠ¨ imply that π‘Ž=π‘£π‘ŸοŠ¨ and π‘Ž=π‘Ÿπœ”οŠ¨, where π‘Ž is centripetal acceleration,
  • rearrange 𝐹=π‘šπ‘£π‘ŸοŠ¨ and 𝐹=π‘šπ‘Ÿπœ”οŠ¨ to find unknown values of π‘Ÿ, 𝑣, and πœ”,
  • determine variations in the centripetal force acting on an object in circular motion at various points along its path, where forces other than the centripetal force can act on the object,
  • determine forces that act on objects in circular motion to provide a centripetal force on the object.


Students should already be familiar with

  • angular displacement,
  • angular velocity,
  • angular frequency,
  • Newton’s laws of motion.


Students will not cover

  • accelerated circular motion,
  • tangential acceleration,
  • elliptical motion.

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