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How should physics be taught?

  1. May 13, 2008 #1
    I go to a very very messed up school.Its tough and demanding but I feel like I dont learn much there(I cud write a whole essay on this).
    Anyways I want knw how shud physics be taught in high school just out of curiousity?
    Because in grade 12 I absolutely hated the our core physics course...all we did was memorise formulas and apply them on specific situations(similar to the AP physics B course..I think).In grade 11 I liked a little bit of the theory but then again there was soo much memorising specific things(E.g:Whether a Virtual or real image is formed by a camera?)which just bored me to death.

    But then I took the AP C:E&M course (which was mostly self-study as my teacher sux) and it was very interesting and satisfying to learn on my own.So is physics really taught like the way in my school or is it different for u people out there and kept interesting at the same time?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 13, 2008 #2


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    physics shud not be speld fizix.

    to me this does not provoke a desire to respond.

    appropriate language is a good beginning for all scientific discussion.
  4. May 13, 2008 #3
    huh?I din do do tht
  5. May 13, 2008 #4
    Maybe English is not his native language?
  6. May 13, 2008 #5


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    You might as well have. You may find that people may only put as much effort into writing an answer as you put into writing the question.
  7. May 13, 2008 #6

    Math Is Hard

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    I'm not so sure about that. The grammar is reasonable, but many of the words show pure sloppiness in spelling and a fondness for text-speak abbreviation. The author knows the language well enough to use an appropriate hyperbole ("bored me to death"), suggesting a good conversational familiarity with the language. It's very telling that a more complex word like "absolutely" is spelled correctly, while the words "could" and "you" get mangled in a text-speak abbreviated style.

    I don't mean any nastiness to the O.P., but I think others have made it clear that if a post appears to have been made without care and thought, then maybe they shouldn't bother with a thoughtful response.
  8. May 14, 2008 #7


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    Don't worry, the responses you've seen so far, are not trying and discourage you from posting, just help you build better writing habits. We are still on your side and here to help.

    I feel high school physics or any technical discipline at the basic level, should not be taught with an emphasis on memorization. They should teach you fundamental principles and how to apply them. They should help you develop physical intuition and strong problem solving skills. If you're lucky to get a good teacher, who expresses enthusiasm for the material, it will be quite fun.
  9. May 14, 2008 #8

    Vanadium 50

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    Excellent point.

    Note that the poster is not complaining that the teaching style wasn't effective. He's complaining that it wasn't entertaining. It might well have been ineffective as well, but that's not the complaint. I'm afraid that I personally am not terribly moved by that complaint.
  10. May 14, 2008 #9
    After reading and writing and 'rithmetic, most likely. There is quite a bit of research put into the topic of physics education, you might be able to rustle up some interesting articles on the topic if you're interested.

    Part of being a good teacher tends to entail engaging the imaginations of the students, meaning that ideally a good teacher needs to be at least part showman on top of the more academic elements. Bored students tend not to learn as well, it's just part of the package when you have human beings for students. Particularly young ones.
    Last edited: May 14, 2008
  11. May 14, 2008 #10
    I think it varies from school-to-school and at the discretion of the teacher who is in charge of the class.

    I believe AP Physics B is more theory and a broader range of topics, while Physics C is a bit more narrow, with more of an emphasis on learning and interpreting the math behind the physics.
  12. May 15, 2008 #11
    There are a lot of "specific thing" that you must memorize or become very familiar with in the study of basic physics. If you do not, you are not prepared to study the more complex topics.
  13. May 15, 2008 #12
    Not *nearly* as much as in some other scientific disciplines or engineering fields. Most of the focus (in my experience) is on gaining an understanding of the physical processes involved, on how to use that and a relatively small set of descriptive formulas to analyze a given problem, and on developing a sense of whether the answer you arrive at is reasonable or estimating roughly what the expected result would be. So more on the familiarity, less on the memorizing.
  14. May 15, 2008 #13
    I agree with Asphodel...especially the part "small set of descriptive formulas to analyze a given problem, and on developing a sense of whether the answer you arrive at is reasonable or estimating roughly what the expected result would be".
    Sadly,in my school just getting the right answer and gettting the marks is of utmost importance.
  15. May 15, 2008 #14
    First of all I am a teenager and this is how we usually talk.But anyways I do not see it as poor english...it was just organised haphazardly.I did not plan it very porperly and I rambled on a bit.I dont understand where you people are coming from....it was not that bad!
  16. May 15, 2008 #15
    I'm a teenager too but I know how to write. High school is when you should begin to take yourself seriously as an adult and as a scholar, which means following the conventions of your native language when writing.
  17. May 15, 2008 #16


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    If you wish to attend and do well in college, you need to learn to use language appropriately. It was "that bad." Just because it is common among teens does not make it appropriate, correct, or acceptable. If you're asking a group of professionals or advanced students about their courses and teaching techniques, and wish to receive a thoughtful response, you need to be thoughtful in your language use. If you want to chit chat with a bunch of other teens who are your friends to whine about your class, use whatever language you want, but that's not what we're about here. Besides, bad habits are really hard to break. It's much better to practice using correct English now so you don't have to spend hours you don't have to waste on proofreading and correcting your writing when in college or the working world.

    As for your original question, the difference between a real and virtual image is a concept to learn, not a memorized detail. That's about the only example you gave to evaluate your perception of what was taught vs what actually was taught. Too often, students who do not adequately understand the concepts resort to attempting to memorize vast amounts of material when their learning would be far more simplified if they learned the few basic concepts taught. Based on your example, you very well may have been taught the concepts and simply did not grasp them adequately. I have no way to tell beyond that. Physics, like any other subject, is about learning the basic concepts and applying them. Of course, also as in any other subject, you need to memorize some basics in order to understand the concepts to apply them. For example, you need to memorize what the variable V0 is/means when you see it in an equation, but then you need to understand the concepts to apply using the equations involving it correctly. As you learn more and more of the fundamentals, the emphasis shifts more from memorizing basics to understanding theories and concepts and applying them to more and more challenging problems. But, it shouldn't be dependent on your teacher to do a song and dance routine for you to learn a subject.
    Last edited: May 15, 2008
  18. May 15, 2008 #17
    Well said!
  19. May 15, 2008 #18
    Okay okay I will stop this SMS english.Now can we go back to the actual point of the thread.I just wanted to know about your experiences with physics-the good and the bad.

    Moonbear...tell me how would you try to study the chapter about mechanical waves.It is all about memorising the equations and then applying them to different sorts of problems which are all very similar.I cannot possibly motivate myself to study a chapter like that.
  20. May 15, 2008 #19


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    I recognize how hard it is to teach physics "properly" without calculus. Once you know calculus, you can learn where the formulas come from, and derive them yourself from scratch. In addition to being immensely satisfying, you REALLY learn the material that way.

    Without calc, you will neccessarily have to memorize more because you don't have the tools yet to derive. In other words, you don't have your deriver's license yet (sorry, I simply cannot resist puns!).
  21. May 15, 2008 #20
    I was fortunate enough to have studied math and physics from university books when I was in high school, while skipping the high school curriculum. Physics and math education is just abominable in primary and high school. You are probably better off not learning that crap at all.

    In the US this problem even persists at university as http://insti.physics.sunysb.edu/~siegel/plan.html" [Broken] :mad:
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  22. May 15, 2008 #21
    Good idea; it's a horrible habit.

    Sounds like a crappy text then, if your description is accurate. Also, many cases in introductory physics are made unnecessarily complicated as lisab described...

    ...here. When I took it, fortunately I already knew most of the material for introductory calculus. So all those extra equations they give you to memorize that are basically pre-integrated or differentiated forms of the fundamental ones? Never bothered with it. Even learning only the very rudiments of calculus and a few key tools (power law) will allow a great deal of insight into what's going on in your introductory texts.

    In many cases, freshman physics and freshman calculus are expected to be taken in parallel. Freshman physics is also necessarily accessible to people outside the physics department as many programs will require taking at least part of that sequence; this aside from students who are taking it to fulfill general education requirements. Thus you get this result. On top of this, most physics departments seem to already be stuck footing two instances of this series - the "for scientists / majors" instance is already calculus based to a degree. What this really means is that it uses a very small amount very late in, while relying largely on trigonometry and algebra. The other version is ostentatiously algebra-based, but in turn doesn't use that nearly as much as it could be.

    If time and money weren't such an issue, we would probably like to get students already having a firm grasp of things like calculus, circular and hyperbolic trigonometry, vectors, differential equations, linear algebra...well, that's most of it that I've seen used at the undergraduate level. If you're taking physics - or any STEM major - get your math in early and do everything you can to master the material. Passing and forgetting isn't the idea here.

    I agree with a number of the points here, but find others completely contrary to my experiences. Of course, he's speaking of books in general. Other matters like the ordering of topics and to some extent questions that doesn't address can really be handled by having a competent instructor, but the points are nonetheless valid. But other people would have a differing set of complaints, as is implicitly shown by him having these complaints at all.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  23. May 15, 2008 #22
    So I guess I will just memorise for now until I get my driving licence necessary to derive the equations.
    Oh and the book I was talking about was University Physics.
  24. May 15, 2008 #23
    You should still only have a very small set of equations. Unless they completely disallow notes, you really just need a well-written equation sheet to get rid of that particular problem.

    Also - ha ha you got stuck with online homework.
  25. May 15, 2008 #24
    I don't understand the "driving license" comment, at all.
  26. May 15, 2008 #25
    Getting your drivers license is, in a sense, a step towards adulthood.

    So, getting your derivers license would be, in a sense, a step towards being a physicist.

    They sound similar, so... yeah. That's the pun.

    I thought it was funny :D.
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