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Never taking intro physics

  1. Jan 9, 2013 #1
    Hello everyone,

    I just graduated from college, but I never took introductory physics. Of course, this lead to some "interesting" situations (learning about friction and torque in classical mechanics, for instance). Since I'm going to graduate school, I'm purchasing textbooks, but I have absolutely NO idea what are some good introductory books that I can use for quick referencing. Do you have any suggestions?

    Also, since I will more than likely be a TA, do you have any suggestions for how to teach the class? What was your course like? I only have my upper level courses to compare to, and I doubt that intro is even close to similar to those.

    Thanks!

    P.S. Yeah, I know it's weird I missed out on intro physics. I changed majors and had a contract where I had to be out in 4 years. The department thought I would be better off being "thrown in the fire" into upper levels instead of taking intro and skimping on upper level courses. I agree with them.
     
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  3. Jan 9, 2013 #2
  4. Jan 9, 2013 #3

    George Jones

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    It is difficult to make recommendations because, in my experience, TA duties can vary greatly from institution to institution, and even from course to course within the same institution. Examples of TA duties include: teaching and marking labs; marking assignments; leading tutorial sessions.

    Have been told anything concrete about what your duties will be?
     
  5. Jan 9, 2013 #4

    bcrowell

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    If you just took the Physics GRE test and got a high enough score to get into grad school, it seems unlikely that there are any big holes in your knowledge. If you need a reference, you have your upper-division books -- which are presumably what you used to review for the GRE.

    If you just want to see the subject the way it's presented to freshmen, then don't go out and buy a $200 intro text. Not only are they exorbitantly expensive, but they're generally horrible books. (Halliday is not the worst of the lot, but it's still pretty awful.) If you're TA'ing for a course, your department should provide you a copy of the text that's being used in the course.

    The *best* freshman physics books (for someone who's well prepared) are:
    Kleppner and Kolenkow, An Introduction to Mechanics
    Purcell, Electricity and Magnetism (I wouldn't buy the 2nd edition, since a 3rd is coming out, with SI units.)
     
  6. Jan 9, 2013 #5
    I haven't. Once I have, I will certainly come back for more advice. I will especially need advice for grading!
     
  7. Jan 9, 2013 #6
    There was a thread a little while ago of someone asking for advice for grading papers as a TA. I was the only respondent, so I'll just C&P what I said then:

    - Don't grade by going through each paper in its entirety before moving onto the next. Instead, go through all the papers marking only the first problem on each. Then give them a shuffle, go back to the top of the stack, and go through question 2 on all of them (and so on). Only add up the points at the very end. This does two things: it helps ensure you grade each question in a consistent manner for everyone, and it prevents a student's performance on the previous questions from unconsciously biasing how generous you are on later questions. If you will be working with other graders to mark the same set of assignments, this is generally how you have to do it anyways to ensure fairness.
    - Try to avoid looking at the student's name when marking the paper. You can have the most egalitarian views in the world on gender, race, and culture, but biases still have a way of creeping into how much we are willing to give different people the benefit of the doubt—even if you're not aware of it. Ideally, names on assignments should be written separately on a cover page that can be folded back on every paper before starting to grade. If this is not the policy of the class you are marking, just do the best with what you have.
    - If you are required to produce your own solutions to the assignments you grade, don't be embarrassed to ask for help from the professor or other graders if you find yourself stuck. It's obviously essential that your solution set be accurate, and everyone needs help now and then even on things they know well.
    - Abide strictly by any policy the professor may have set for handing in things late, etc. (such as marks being taken off or the assignment not being graded at all). It should go without saying that the same goes for the university policies on more serious matters like plagiarism. It is the professor's (and/or the faculty's) prerogative to decide how flexible he or she wishes to be, and if a student has a legitimate reason for being late, etc., the prof is the one they need to take it up with. Don't put yourself in a precarious position by bending the rules for someone. It is your job to dispense grades, not mercy.
     
  8. Jan 9, 2013 #7

    atyy

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    Purcell must turning over in his grave! Jackson, in his latest edition with SI units, writes that he has betrayed his friend Purcell - apparently they had a pact that neither would use SI in their textbooks..
     
  9. Jan 9, 2013 #8

    George Jones

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    Advice you receive might seem obvious to you. Consistency is very important. If you end up marking assignments for a class of 50 or (possibly much) more, this can take some effort.

    An instructor will likely give you solution sets for the problems (but maybe not!), but may or may not give you detailed marking schemes. When I mark, I like to start with a marking scheme, and, as I mark, I often make a record of common mistakes, and what these mistakes cost the students. If student 4 makes a mistake, and student 74 makes a similar mistake, I can look at my record. Without this, I sometimes find that, like clocks which run at slightly different rates, "mark drift" can occur.

    Also, be prepared to justify your marks to both the instructor and students. Students WILL complain. The instructor might take most of the heat for you.

    In the end, you have to work out what works for you.

    Good luck!
     
  10. Jan 9, 2013 #9

    George Jones

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    I also think that this is very important.
     
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