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Vectors for OCR A-level Maths

This page covers the following topics:

1. Position vectors
2. Translation vectors
3. Vector magnitude
4. Vector direction

A position vector is a vector that describes the position of a point relative to the origin. If a point has coordinates (x, y, z), then its position vector is xi + yj + zk relative to the origin.

When the position vectors of two points are known, the vector between the two points can be found by subtracting one position from the vector. Let OA and OB be the position vectors of the points A and B respectively. The vector AB can then be found by moving from A to the origin, ie. โˆ’OA, and from the origin to B, ie. OB, so AB = OB โˆ’ OA.

Position vectors

A column vector can be used to represent a translation. The top number represents the number of units moved in the horizontal direction, with the positive direction being the right direction. The bottom number represents the number of units moved in the vertical direction, with the positive direction being upwards.

Translation vectors

The magnitude of a vector can be calculated using Pythagorasโ€™ theorem. A vector given by (x y) has magnitude โˆš(xยฒ + yยฒ), and a vector given by (x y z) has magnitude โˆš(xยฒ + yยฒ + zยฒ). To obtain the distance between two points, the vector between them can be found and then its magnitude can be calculated to give the required distance.

Vector magnitude

The direction of a vector can be calculated using trigonometric functions to find the angle which the vector makes with the horizontal. For a 2D vector the direction the vector makes with the x-axis can be found by obtaining an arctangent of the x and y coordinate ratio. Once the magnitude and direction of a vector are known, the vector can be expressed in the following form: v = |v|(icosฮธ + jsinฮธ), where |v| is the magnitude and ฮธ is the angle it makes with the horizontal.

Vector direction

1

State the coordinates of the point (9, 4) after undergoing a translation represented by the column vector (โˆ’2 5).

The top number represents the number of units moved in the horizontal direction, with the positive direction being the right direction. The bottom number represents the number of units moved in the vertical direction, with the positive direction being upwards.
9 โˆ’ 2 = 7
4 + 5 = 9

(7, 9)

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2

Calculate the direction of the vector 4i + 7j with respect to x axis.

For a 2D vector the direction the vector makes with the x-axis can be found by obtaining an arctangent of the x and y coordinate ratio.
tanฮธ = 7/4
ฮธ = arctan(7/4) = 60.3ยฐ anticlockwise

60.3ยฐ anticlockwise

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3

Provide a vector that describes the translation shown shown in the image.

The triangle has moved 5 units to the right and 3 units downwards, therefore the column vector is (5 โˆ’3).

(5 โˆ’3)

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