Day 1: Dice, Histograms, and Buggies

Modern Physics (for 11th/12th graders) started with a variation of a Quarknet Data Portfolio activity to learn how to make histograms and to start thinking about how they could be useful. There were multiple parts to the activity. In one part, they found sums for pairs of dice. They made histograms for their groups, but also pooled data as a class and made one big … Continue reading Day 1: Dice, Histograms, and Buggies

Day 20: Forces and Jumping

In our last class (which was a week ago), the Mechanics kids had whiteboarded a problem about a student jumping (which I got from Noah Segal, who—in addition to being a great physics teacher—is also a wizard of MS Word art): The discussion (last class) was centered around the first situation. The original whiteboard showed the forces as balanced. Might be tough to see in … Continue reading Day 20: Forces and Jumping

Day 13: Newton’s 2nd Law Experiment

We started Unbalanced Forces, so now we’re really doing physics! Of course, we started by doing an experiment. It was so cool to jump into our first real pre-lab with kids who’ve been there with me before. I showed them something and they exclaimed, “Observations!” and started listing them before I even really finished showing them the relativity exciting thing. They drew an FBD for the … Continue reading Day 13: Newton’s 2nd Law Experiment

Day 10: Building Boats in Chemistry

Most of our class time today in Chem 9 was spent building boats and following an only slightly edited version of this activity. In the morning, many students noted wearily that they had built boats to float pennies many times (even multiple years in middle school). I promised them that this activity would be different from what they had done before, but they didn’t believe … Continue reading Day 10: Building Boats in Chemistry

Day 6: Translating between graphs, TIPERs, and Light Clocks

Relativity (the class) made the shift from “regular old” relative motion to the beginnings of Special Relativity by thinking about the light clock. When we were trying to think about the difference in path length for the light in the stationary clock versus moving clock, one student went up to make the connection to the ball falling on the moving cart from the Frames of … Continue reading Day 6: Translating between graphs, TIPERs, and Light Clocks

Day 3: What does a negative acceleration mean?

We didn’t answer that question today, but we asked it a lot. Almost everyone in the class has really wondered that on their own by now. One student has proposed that it has to do with the direction of the forces, but that didn’t get much traction (yet). We will come back to that question and idea soon enough. We worked through their findings from … Continue reading Day 3: What does a negative acceleration mean?

Day 1: Carts, Ramps, and Sensors (Oh My)

Today was (finally!) the first day of classes. This year, I’m teaching 1 section of Advanced Mechanics (basically AP 1), 2 sections of a yearlong 9th grade Modeling Chemistry class, and 2 trimesters of other science electives (Special Relativity in the fall, Physics of Sound & Music in the winter). Advanced Mechanics is a total treat to teach. It’s an amazing group of kids who … Continue reading Day 1: Carts, Ramps, and Sensors (Oh My)

Day 17: Force Discussion to FBD Practice

Because of some interruptions to our class time, it took us a while to (finally) get to the end of problem 4. It’s a tough one—asking what will happen, after you’ve been pushing an object at a constant velocity, when you then reduce your push to use a smaller force. The class was divided among a lot of different ideas. Would it go at a … Continue reading Day 17: Force Discussion to FBD Practice

Day 15: “But then it wouldn’t be able to move!”

We finished problem 3 in no time (what if the floor were completely frictionless), and then we moved on to problem 4 where the real trouble always begins. Here’s the problem: It’s one of the Matt Greenwolfe problems, but I’ve worked on the precise wording a lot to avoid some of the semantics problems that have tripped up my students in the past. (For example, … Continue reading Day 15: “But then it wouldn’t be able to move!”

Day 14: “I feel like I’ve grown so much today.”

Part 2 of the first force problem discussions happened today. The third and final part will happen on Monday. As always, the second problem was much easier after the first one. As a class, things started coming together even more today. More people spoke who hadn’t talked much in large group discussions yet. They were quicker to call on Talia’s Law (N1L) as part of an argument. … Continue reading Day 14: “I feel like I’ve grown so much today.”