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AQA Core 4 Vectors

Section 1: Vectors in two and three dimensions


Notes and Examples
These notes contain subsections on
Writing a vector in component form
Vectors in three dimensons
Multiplying a vector by a scalar
Adding and subtracting vectors
Equal vectors and position vectors
Unit vectors

Writing a vector in component form


A vector quantity has both magnitude (size) and direction. A scalar
quantity has magnitude only.
Vectors may be written in bold, a, or underlined, a, or with an arrow above, a .
Two vectors are equal if they have the same magnitude and direction.

a
Vectors are often expressed in the form , where a is the number of units
b
in the x-direction, and b is the number of units in the y-direction.
A unit vector has
a magnitude of 1.

The vector can also be written using the unit vectors i and j.
j

i is a unit vector in the x direction.


j is a unit vector in the y direction.

This vector is
or 3i + 4j

The magnitude of a vector given in component form is found using


Pythagorass theorem.
a
The magnitude of a
So the vector c has magnitude:
vector is sometimes
b

c a b
2

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called the modulus.

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AQA C4 Vectors 1 Notes and Examples


Vectors in three dimensions
3-D coordinates can be plotted on a grid like this one:
z

P(2, 5, 6)

The coordinates are always


given in the order (x, y, z).

The length of the vector a a1i a2 j a3k is:

a a12 a2 2 a32

Example 1
The points A and B have coordinates (4, -1, 2) and (-1, 3, 1) respectively.
Find AB .
Solution
1
4


OA 1 and OB 3
1
2


AB OB OA
1 4 5

AB 3 1 4
1 2 1

AB (5)2 42 (1)2 25 16 1 42

For further practice in examples like the ones above, use the interactive
questions Magnitude of a vector.

Multiplying a vector by a scalar


To multiply a vector by a scalar (number) simply multiply each of the
components by the scalar.

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AQA C4 Vectors 1 Notes and Examples


Note:

when the scalar is positive the direction of the vector remains the
same but the length (or magnitude) of the vector increases by the
same factor.
when the scalar is negative the direction of the vector is reversed and
again the length (or magnitude) of the vector increase.

Example 2
2
a
3
(i) Find 4a
(ii) Find the value of a
(iii) Write down the value of 4a
Solution

2 8
(i) 4a 4

3 12
(ii) a 22 (3)2 4 9 13
(iii) 4a 4 a 4 13

The same principle applies when working with vectors in three dimensions.
This is the same as multiplying by -1.
Just reverse the signs!

Example 3
5
a
7
Find a .
Solution
5
5
a , so a
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7

Adding and subtracting vectors


To add/subtract vectors simply multiply add/subtract the i components and
then the j components.
Adding two or more vectors is called finding the resultant.

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AQA C4 Vectors 1 Notes and Examples


Example 4

5
3
(i) Find the resultant of and .
7
2
9 5
(ii) Work out
8 3
Solution
(i) To find the resultant you need to add the vectors.
5 3 2

7 2 5
You can see this more clearly in this diagram:

5i

-7j

-5j

2i

The resultant is shown


by a double headed
arrow.

2j
-3i

9 5 4
(ii)
8 3 5
Again, the same ideas can be applied to vectors in three dimensions.
The Geogebra resource Adding and subtracting vectors demonstrates the
geometrical interpretation of vector addition and subtraction. You may also
find the Mathcentre video Introduction to vectors useful.

For further practice in examples like the ones above, use the interactive
questions Operations on vectors.

Equal vectors and position vectors


Two vectors are equal if they have the same magnitude and direction.
They do not have to be in the same place!

Example 5
The diagram shows a parallelogram ABCD.
A

B
E

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AQA C4 Vectors 1 Notes and Examples


DA a , AE b , AB c
(a) Find in terms of a, b and c the vectors:
(i) CB
(ii)
(iii)
BC
BD .
(b) Find two equivalent expressions for AC .
Solution
(a) (i) CB DA a
(ii) BC CB a
(iii) BD BA AD
BD c a
(b) AC AB BC
AC c a
Also AC 2AE 2b

A position vector is a vector which starts at the origin.


So if two position vectors are equal they will be in the same place!
For example the point A (5, -3) has the position vector OA 5i 3j .
You need to know that

AO OA
AB OA OB
So AB OB OA
The mid-point, M, has position vector:
OM OA 12 AB

You can see the reason for these results more clearly in this diagram:
y
A

AB
AO OA

OM
B

OB
O

Example 6
The points A and B have coordinates (2, 4) and (5, -1) respectively.
(i) Write down the position vectors OA and OB .
(ii) Find the vector AB .
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AQA C4 Vectors 1 Notes and Examples


(iii) Find the position vector of the mid-point, M of AB.
Solution
2
(i) OA =
4

5
OB =
1
5 2 3
(ii) AB OB OA
1 4 5
(iii) OM OA 12 AB

2 1 3

4 2 5
2 1 12
1
4 2 2
31
21
1 2

Unit vectors
A unit vector has a magnitude of 1.
i and j are examples of unit vectors.
You need to be able to find a unit vector which has the same direction as a
given vector, a.
You do this by:
Finding the magnitude of the vector, a

Dividing a by its magnitude, a

Say a hat.

The unit vector of a is written a

Example 7

2
Find the unit vector in the direction of a
3
Solution
a 22 (3)2 4 9 13

213
a 3

13

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AQA C4 Vectors 1 Notes and Examples


The same idea can also be applied to vectors in three dimensions.

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