
#19
Nov1512, 08:40 AM

P: 255





#20
Nov1512, 08:55 AM

P: 139

I am student teacher now.
We are considered a high needs school. But we are offering 1 AP Physics B class, 1 Honors Physics class, and 2 conceptual Physics classes. The conceptual is very math light, nothing more than F=ma, p=mv, g=10 m/s/s. But we get into good discussions of why the world behaves the way it does. It's a pretty interesting course, and one that I think should actually be taught at the middle school level. For the other, more traditional, classes, I find what trips up the kids, and turns other kids off from taking the course is the math. The trig and algebra tends to discourage a lot of students. And this is a noncalculus course. And maybe this is more a fault of their earlier math teachers, but half these kids have trouble just applying the distributive property of multiplication when trying to solve for a variable. 



#21
Nov1512, 09:38 AM

P: 510

I sometimes wonder whether at least a part of the problem with the way science and math are taught in American (and Canadian) schools is that too little solid math taught between kindergarten to Grade 6 is actually taught and so when advanced concepts are introduced in later grades, students are simply overwhelmed.
I recall ever so long ago from my childhood that many of my classmates in Grade 6 were still learning the advanced multiplication tables, while I was being taught by my parents (and teaching myself) advanced algebra through texts that they bought for me and through private tutoring. Perhaps a gradual but more indepth introduction of mathematical concepts through the earlier years will enable students to better comprehend and learn the material, and thus concepts from physics and other sciences will be better taught. This also ties in to teacher training as well, since I suspect many elementary school teachers do not have any background in either math or science. 



#22
Nov1612, 08:02 AM

Sci Advisor
P: 5,468

http://www.maa.org/devlin/lockhartslament.pdf FWIW, a major thrust of STEM reform is centered on STEM *educator* reform. 



#23
Nov1612, 08:53 AM

P: 255

When I took advanced math classes in high school, the focus of the classes shifted from a purely 'calculatory' approach to something with more demonstrations and abstract concepts. That made me struggle A LOT (but certainly more engaging). The same thing happens when people go from high school to college, especially if they're going for a physics/math degree (that's what I observed at least). Maybe it's ok that this happens in college, but maybe changing the way math is taught to little kids might help (I have no idea how this works in the US btw). 



#24
Nov1612, 03:50 PM

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P: 5,468

However, there is a big difference in curricula for classes subject to standardized 'proficiency exams' (math, science, english) and those not tested art, philosophy,etc. To paraphrase Lockhart's essay, No K12 art teacher grades based on the expectation that the student will one day be a professional artist. No K12 music teacher develops a curriculum based on the assumption that every student may become a professional musician. The same holds true for most subjects the curriculum is based on providing a constructive learning experience, not rote memorization. The clear exceptions are reading, math and science. It is also no coincidence that reading and math are subject to a large number of standardized exams. The argument for standardized exams goes like this: some school districts (primarily poor urban and poor rural) manage to only graduate a small fraction of kids, and of those that graduate, most are functional at the 4th grade level or so. This is clearly unacceptable, so standardized tests are required to ensure that all students graduate with a minimum amount of skill/knowledge. And to make sure schools take these tests seriously, today's test scores are correlated with tomorrow's funding levels. Personally, I agree that graduating students need to be able to read, write, and compute at a gradeappropriate level. I disagree that the schools with the worst problems should drive the curriculum at successful schools (which is what happens because *all* schools have to deal with the same standardized exams). Our school district is moving to the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum, and while I know very little about the specifics, what I do know is encouraging there is less emphasis on rote memorization and more emphasis on coherent integration of concepts across disciplines. 



#25
Nov1612, 04:08 PM

P: 510

So the question then becomes, would eliminating standardized testing for math and reading may actually improve overall proficiency in the subjects? That would be an interesting hypothesis to test. 



#26
Nov1612, 10:03 PM

P: 746

I don't think it has anything to do with standardized testing. As a former physics hater in high school myself, it just comes down to being lazy and not wanting to learn it. Lets face it, physics and math are hard subjects, and can be rather boring. The average high school kid doesn't give a rats *** what the velocity of a ball rolling down an incline plane is at the bottom of the plane, atleast given the energy needed to understand the problem. The ratio of time it takes to understand the question relative to the significance of the question is rather high for many pupils.




#27
Nov1912, 08:37 AM

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P: 5,468

For example, I could decide that a high school student has demonstrated proficiency in Physics if the student, with prompting, can solve a particular equation for an unknown quantity and can recall basic factual information. This sort of proficiency lends itself well to standardized testing. Alternatively, I could decide that a high school student has demonstrated proficiency in Physics if the student, with prompting, can provide quantitative evidence that supports or refutes a scientific claim. This sort of proficiency does not lend itself to standardized testing. You (and others) correctly identify a 'bottleneck': the transition from K12 science education to college/university science education is difficult for many students, even those who did very well in the K12 system. Personally, I think it's because of the difference in what is thought of as 'proficiency' K12 students are rewarded for rote memorization, while college/university students are increasingly asked to apply conceptual information to new and unfamiliar problems. This 'problembased learning' approach has been increasingly used in advanced classes for decades, but only recently has it been applied to generalscience required classes. 



#28
Nov2612, 11:39 AM

P: 139

The first is the way they are tested. The standardized, 7090 question multiple choice test with 510 constructed answer questions. The format of these tests dictate the way the content is taught. The second reason is tradition. Physics has been taught using the same examples, the same way for many years. This is generally caused by professors who teach the way they've always taught. A Physics Professor is often a horrible teacher. I took my physics classes at one of the top Physics schools in New York (Stony Brook University). But the professors cared more about research than teaching and basically taught by writing out a proof or a derivation on the board for an hour. Many high school teachers learn to teach physics from these professors, so they teach the same way. This is changing for younger teachers, as the theory behind learning and teaching is being emphasized more in education programs. As for math, well, once you get past early algebra, it's very hard to see the point in learning. Some of my physics students have told me that takuing physics helped them to understand geometry and trig a lot better because they have something to help it make sense. And one of my AP students said the same about calc. Math and Physics are often separated in schools, but it doesn't need to be so. We could start teaching physics in math classes as early as algebra. Why separate the subjects? Newton certainly didn't. 



#29
Nov2612, 02:57 PM

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P: 2,692

superdave wrote:




#30
Nov2612, 03:15 PM

P: 139

And there are standards written like "Students will be able to use complex math ideas to solve every day problems." But then on the standardized test, the questions go back to being "Prove triangle xyz is congruent to abc" and "Simplify [insert complex number with radical in denominator]" with never any explanation of why anyone would possibly want to do that. There is a disconnect between the standards and the standardized tests. And now that more and more states are tying teacher pay to student performance on the test, teachers have less time to get creative and spend more time on the test. If physics was no longer just a science seniors took, but an integral part of math class from early years, it might help with some of these issues. 



#31
Nov2612, 06:56 PM

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P: 2,692

superdave,
The reason why some/many of the OLDER textbooks are good (or great) is because they do have many and varied applications exercises and examples. Still, we do not need to wonder why physical science students develop a good sense for how to use their Mathematics to analyze and solve realistic worddescribed problems and numerical physical problems. First they spend several weeks learning Algebra and maybe some Trigonometry; then they see their physical science topics relying on Algebra and Trigonometry, where the topic is both contactable and very mathematical. The mathematics LIVES in the physical sciences. 



#32
Nov2812, 08:17 AM

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#33
Nov2812, 08:38 AM

P: 139





#34
Nov2912, 08:29 AM

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P: 5,468

My point is that as an instructor, you can choose to update/refresh your course stating 'physics is boring because the tests and example problems are no longer relevant' when you have the direct ability to change that is unfair. That said, while it is certainly true that K12 teachers have less latitude than college/university teachers (for a variety of reasons), I maintain it's still possible to make adjustments to the curriculum in an effort to be more effective. So here's my challenge: what specific changes would you make? 



#35
Nov3012, 05:42 AM

P: 139

Then for calculations, I tried to first do them with interesting examples. We calculated the change of kinetic energy during a pitch to find the work done, and then the power. Using ESPN's Sports science to get some of the details. Did a few other video calculations. The power of Iron Man's rocket boots, the spring constant in SpiderMan's webs, the kinetic energy, and then his velocity, at the bottom of his swing. And the students did better on this unit test than they have on any of the ones their regular teacher taught. And actually found the material interesting. It's true, most of these changes could be made within the structure of the state curriculum. But there is nothing pushing for it. Boring teachers continue to be boring teachers. So you are right in the sense that you can't blame it all on the standardized test. 



#36
Nov3012, 08:34 AM

Sci Advisor
P: 5,468

Sounds excellent! I try and include 'physics of superheroes'type material as well. Most of my intro students are health science majors, so I tend to use those applications weight lifting and sports injuries (forces and torques), IV drips/hemodynamics (fluids), metabolism (thermodynamics), etc. etc.
I'm contemplating a major revision to the course introducing energy first, even before kinematics, since the students have an intuitive feel for energy and pressure but are seriously intimidated by vectors and trig. Unfortunately, I don't think any textbook would let me do that the energy/waves/fluids/thermo chapters and homework problems all use jargon developed in previous chapters. 


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