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physics

This category contains 36 posts

Mechanics: 3 Fundamental Principles

So you’re thinking in terms of physical models now instead of in terms of chapters, units, or equations. Now what? Is there a high-level ordering of these ideas? How are they connected? Are there common themes? One activity that I’ve done to help students build higher-level organization into their thinking is concept maps (which I … Continue reading

Drawing accelerated position-time graphs

During our PLC chat this week, we talked at one point about how long it takes for students to become completely consistent in drawing motion graphs. My experience has been that students become confident relatively quickly in drawing the velocity-vs-time graphs (having switched their brain into thinking through v-t graphs), but still sometimes struggle to draw … Continue reading

Physics Soul-mates

The day-to-day work in my class happens in at tables in an “individually together” manner that I described in the Whiteboarding Mistake Game: A Guide post. Quick summary of “individually together”: Students work at tables on problems in their packets. They mostly work on their own, take a moment to consult and debate with the … Continue reading

Building the Constant Velocity Model

Here’s a binder. And the handshake. [As they walk in, I’m handing out their binders (with materials, labeled dividers, spare graph paper, their names on the sides) and shaking their hands as we make the transaction. I’ve seen some discussion in various places online about the appropriateness of shaking students’ hands on the first day of school. … Continue reading

Empirical Force Laws: Spring Force Experiment

In the middle of our Balanced Forces unit, we do a couple of experiments to come up with equations for some of the types of forces we’ve been talking about while drawing qualitative free body diagrams. We tend to do them at the same time and to post-lab them together. I covered the gravitational force last … Continue reading

Empirical Force Laws: Gravitational Force Experiment

In the middle of our Balanced Forces unit, we do a couple of experiments to come up with equations for some of the types of forces we’ve been talking about while drawing qualitative free body diagrams. We tend to do them at the same time and to post-lab them together. I’ll split them over two … Continue reading

Energy Pie Charts

The stage is set. We started building the energy transfer model (ETM), and we’ve talked about the flavors of energy. We are ready for a new representation to help us start thinking about energy storage in a system. In a day or two, we’ll be using energy bar charts, but first, we’ll get used to … Continue reading

All-year Goal-less Problems for Physics Class

So. Josh* took my Honors Physics exam review activity and expanded it into something bigger and better. As I was reading his post, though, I started thinking about my regular physics classes. They would really like something like that. Of course, I also had to make it my own. I am curating a set of … Continue reading

Balanced Forces before Constant Acceleration

I know you’ve been there. Stuck in the doldrums of kinematics. “It’s against the law to think in the doldrums!” So there you are. Stuck in description-land. The juicy parts of physics (explain and predict) are far away and out of reach. You can easily spend ages and ages there. The students start to think … Continue reading

Updated Advice from Former Physics Students

One of my favorite pages that comes included in the new (delicious) binders I hand to students on the first day of school is the Advice from Past Students handout. Everything included on the page is actual advice from actual former students (contributed through course evaluations). For the 2013 crew, I’ve changed the layout to … Continue reading

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