A force is a vector quantity, it has both magnitude and direction
A force is a push or a pull on an object
A force is measured in Newtons
In A level mathematical models, forces act at a singlepoint called a particle which occupies a single point in space
What types of force are used in mechanics?
Weight is the effect of mass and gravity, it always acts downwards
Tension is a pulling force, it always acts away from an object
Thrust is a pushing force, it always acts towards an object
Friction is a resistive force, it acts to oppose the motion of an object
Every surface will produce a reaction force, it will always act perpendicular to the surface
Mass, Gravity and Weight
Mass is a measure of the amount of matter in an object
Mass is a scalar quantity, measured in kilograms, kg
Mass is universal, it does not change based on location
Gravity is the force by which a body (usually a planet or a star) pulls objects towards its centre
g is the acceleration due to gravity, measured in m s-2
On Earth, g is approximately 10m s-2 , although its exact value varies with location
g is different elsewhere in the universe
Weight is the product of mass and gravity, it is a force measured in Newtons
Weight is a vector quantity
Weight varies with location
Weight always acts vertically downwards towards the ground
Always sketch a diagram and mark the forces on the diagram clearly, it will help you to understand the problem. Add more things to the diagram as you progress through the question. You may not even need all the forces from your diagram but it is useful to have them there.
You should always round your answers to three significant figures.
Amber gained a first class degree in Mathematics & Meteorology from the University of Reading before training to become a teacher. She is passionate about teaching, having spent 8 years teaching GCSE and A Level Mathematics both in the UK and internationally. Amber loves creating bright and informative resources to help students reach their potential.