A vector is a way of representing a quantity that has size and direction. e.g. In physics, velocity and force.

Length of a vector
Properties of vectors


Vectors are labelled either Y10_Vectors_01.gifor Y10_Vectors_02.gif, sometimes Y10_Vectors_03.gif .

A vector can be represented :

By a line, the length showing the size of the quantity and the arrow showing the direction.

Vectors can start anywhere on the number plane.

e.g. Vector Y10_Vectors_01.gif or Y10_Vectors_02.gifY10_Vectors_04.gif

By a 2 by 1 matrix or array, enclosed in brackets. Y10_Vectors_05.gif

e.g.  = Y10_Vectors_06.gif



Length of a Vector

The length of a vector (called its magnitude) can be found using Pythagoras' Theorem.


Properties of vectors

Multiplication. A vector can be multiplied by an ordinary number (called a constant or a scalar). Both of the components are multiplied by the number.




Multiplying a vector by a number produces a parallel vector.

Inverse. The inverse of a vector is obtained by changing the signs of the components of the vector.

e.g. Inverse of Y10_Vectors_11.gif

This has the effect of changing the direction of the arrow on the vector.

Y10_Vectors_12.gifis Y10_Vectors_13.gif


Vectors can be added together.

By matrices. Add the corresponding elements.

e.g. Y10_Vectors_14.gif

By drawing. Form a triangle. The second vector is added on to the end of the first vector. The resultant vector (labelled c) is sometimes shown by two arrows. Note that the two vectors go clockwise around the triangle and the resultant goes anti-clockwise.



Y10_Vectors_16.gifis shown in the diagram.


More than two vectors can be added together.



Download an interactive spreadsheet (Microsoft Excel) illustrating the addition of vectors.


(Windows users, right click and "Save target as..." to save the files on your computer.)


Vector subtraction is best done by addition of the inverse or opposite vector.

By matrices Y10_Vectors_20.gif

By drawing





Navigation Y10_Vectors_23.gif

Latitude and Longitude

The Earth is very nearly a perfect sphere.

On a globe of the Earth there are two sets of lines that form a special grid which can be used to locate any point on the surface of the Earth.

Lines of latitude are circles parallel to the equator.The equator is labelled as 0° and the latitude of a place is measured in degrees and minutes (1/60th of a degree) north or south of the equator.

Lines of longitude are half- circles joining the North and South Poles. They cross the equator at right angles.

Greenwich, near London in England, is labelled as 0° and the longitude of a place is measured in degrees and minutes east or west of Greenwich, up to 180° each way.

Auckland is 37°S, 175°E

i.e. 37° south of the equator and 175°east of Greenwich.

Los Angeles is 34° N, 118°W

i.e. 34° north of the equator and 118° west of Greenwich.




Quadrant bearings These bearings have a maximum of 90°and each one begins with either N or S, followed by the number of degrees east or west of that direction.

e.g. N40°W is shown in the diagram.

Whole Circle bearings These bearings use north as 0° and the angle is measured in a clockwise direction.

e.g. The whole circle bearing shown in the diagram is written as 320°.

For an exciting and fun practice with bearings − button_game.gif