Column Vectors Revision and worksheets | Maths Made Easy

Column Vectors Revision and worksheets

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What you need to know

A vector is something with both magnitude (size) and direction. On a diagram, they are denoted by an arrow, where the length of the arrow tells us the magnitude and the way the arrow is pointing tells us the direction.

When we add vectors, we add them end-to-end. For example, if you add two vectors $\mathbf{a}$ and $\mathbf{b}$, then the result is the vector $\mathbf{a}+\mathbf{b}$, which takes you from the start of $\mathbf{a}$ to the end of $\mathbf{b}$ (right).

The negative of a vector has the same magnitude of the original vector, it just goes in the exact opposite direction. When we subtract vectors, for example $\mathbf{a}-\mathbf{b}$, we add on the negative of the vector that is being subtracted, i.e. we add the vector $-\mathbf{b}$ onto the vector $\mathbf{a}$, as seen in the picture.

We can multiply a vector by a number. As with normal multiplication, it’s just the same as adding a number to itself multiple times, so the result of multiply $\mathbf{a}$ by 3 is

$3\mathbf{a}=\mathbf{a}+\mathbf{a}+\mathbf{a}$

Then, they are added end-to-end, just how we’ve already seen. Note: all vectors here are written in bold. When you’re writing this by hand, you should underline each letter that represents a vector.

Vectors are often split up into two parts – an $x$ part, which tells us how far the vector moves left or right, and a $y$ part, which tells us how far a vector moves up or down. When splitting up vectors like this, we express them as column vectors, where the top number is the $x$ part and the bottom number is the $y$ part.

For example, the vector $\mathbf{a}$ goes 3 spaces to the right and 2 spaces up, so would be expressed like $\begin{pmatrix}3\\2 \end{pmatrix}$. If the vector goes left, the $x$ value is negative, and if it goes down, the $y$ value is negative.

To add/subtract column vectors, we add/subtract the $x$ and $y$ values separately. For example,

$\begin{pmatrix}-3\\4\end{pmatrix}+\begin{pmatrix}5\\2\end{pmatrix}=\begin{pmatrix}2\\6\end{pmatrix}$

To multiply a column vector by a number, we multiply both values in the vector by that number, e.g.

$5\times\begin{pmatrix}2\\-3\end{pmatrix}=\begin{pmatrix}10\\-15\end{pmatrix}$

It’s important to understand that the vectors you see diagrams of and vectors written in column form are just different ways of working with the same thing. Suppose you have two column vectors, which you then add together to get another vector. If you then drew those two column vectors on a diagram and added them end-to-end (like we saw above), the resulting vector would be precisely what you got when you added the two column vectors.

For the foundation course it is sufficient to have a good understanding how to represent vectors on a diagram and as a column, as well as knowing how to add/subtract/multiply them in both forms. However, for the higher course, there is a little more.

Firstly, a vector that goes from some point $A$ to another point $B$ may be denoted like $\overrightarrow{AB}$. If a vector starts from the origin and goes to some point, say $A$, it will be written with an O, like $\overrightarrow{OA}$.

Example Questions

Firstly, to multiply $\mathbf{a}$ by 2, we must multiply both of its components by 2:

$2\mathbf{a}=2\times\begin{pmatrix}3\\8\end{pmatrix}=\begin{pmatrix}6\\16\end{pmatrix}$

Then, to add this to $\mathbf{b}$, we must add the $x$ values and $y$ values separately. Doing so, we get the answer to be

$2\mathbf{a}+\mathbf{b}=\begin{pmatrix}6\\16\end{pmatrix}+\begin{pmatrix}-7\\2\end{pmatrix}=\begin{pmatrix}-1\\18\end{pmatrix}$

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