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New to AP teaching - AP Physics 1 test help

  1. Jan 19, 2015 #1
    I have never taught an AP class, and this year is my first year where my students will be taking the AP Physics 1 test. I took a look at the sample questions they have released and it got me scared and nervous.

    What are you doing to prepare your students for the AP test? Anything different from years past? I know that this is a new test and we don't have much to look at for an exact example of what to expect, so I was wondering how you are approaching this test.

    Thank you all!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 19, 2015 #2
    Anything specific?
  4. Jan 19, 2015 #3
  5. Jan 25, 2015 #4


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    I do find the pdf wordy and redundant.

    It is probably not organized well in the way one might teach introductory physics. It immediately starts with atomic/nuclear/particle physics topics, which are often described as topics in modern or nuclear and particle/high energy physics. It would seem there is a supposition that students have had some physics background.

    The text present 7 Big Ideas:

    Big Idea 1: Objects and systems have properties such as mass and charge. Systems may have internal structures, but particles do not.

    The definition of a fundamental particle is an object without an internal structure. Perhaps it should mean that an object has a uniform but unknown internal structure.

    Big Idea 2: Field exist in space and can be used to explain interactions

    Big Idea 3: Interactions among objects can be described by forces

    Big Idea 4: Interactions between systems generally produces changes in those systems

    Big Idea 5: Changes occuring as a result of interactions are constrained by conservation laws

    Big Idea 6: Waves transfer energy and momentum spatially without necessarily transferring mass. Waves can be used to describe various physical phenomena. Clearly, photons transfer energy and momentum without transferring mass.

    Big Idea 7: The mathematics of probability can be used to describe the collective behavior of complex systems and to interpret the behavior of quantum mechanical systems.

    Perhaps a better way of organizing an introductory two-semester course in physics is as follows:


    Basic concepts - position, velocity, acceleration, kinematics
    Chapter 1 Measurement
    Chapter 2 Motion Along a Straight Line
    Chapter 3 Vector
    Chapter 4 Motion in Two and Three Dimensions

    Mechanics: Statics and Dynamics
    Chapter 5 Force and Motion I
    Chapter 6 Force and Motion II
    Chapter 7 Kinetic Energy and Work
    Chapter 8 Potential Energy and Conservation of Energy
    Chapter 9 Center of Mass and Linear Momentum
    Chapter 10 Rotation
    Chapter 11 Rolling, Torque, and Angular Momentum
    Chapter 12 Equilibrium and Elasticity
    Chapter 13 Gravitation

    Fluids - Statics and Dynamics
    Chapter 14 Fluids
    Chapter 15 Oscillations
    Chapter 16 Waves I
    Chapter 17 Waves II

    Chapter 18 Temperature, Heat, and the First Law of Thermodynamics
    Chapter 19 The Kinetic Theory of Gases
    Chapter 20 Entropy and the Second Law of Thermodynamics

    Charge, Electricity, Magnetism, Electromagnetism and Circuit Theory
    Chapter 21 Electric Charge
    Chapter 22 Electric Fields
    Chapter 23 Gauss’ Law
    Chapter 24 Electric Potential
    Chapter 25 Capacitance
    Chapter 26 Current and Resistance
    Chapter 27 Circuits
    Chapter 28 Magnetic Fields
    Chapter 29 Magnetic Fields Due to Currents
    Chapter 30 Induction and Inductance
    Chapter 31 Electromagnetic Oscillations and Alternating Current
    Chapter 32 Maxwell's Equations; Magnetism of Matter
    Chapter 33 Electromagnetic Waves

    Chapter 34 Images
    Chapter 35 Interference
    Chapter 36 Diffraction

    Modern Physics - Relativity, Atomic Theory, Nuclear Physics
    Chapter 37 Relativity
    Chapter 38 Photons and Matter Waves
    Chapter 39 More About Matter Waves
    Chapter 40 All About Atoms
    Chapter 41 Conduction of Electricity in Solids
    Chapter 42 Nuclear Physics
    Chapter 43 Energy from the Nucleus
    Chapter 44 Quarks, Leptons, and the Big Bang

    I would imaging Chapters 1-20 in the first semester and 21-44 in the second semester.

    Some preliminary or basic ideas -

    Kinematics is the branch of classical mechanics which describes the motion of points, bodies (objects) and systems of bodies (groups of objects) without consideration of the causes of motion, i.e. without reference to the masses or forces.

    Mechanics is the branch of physics concerned with the behavior of physical bodies when subjected to forces or displacements, and the subsequent effects of the bodies on their environment.

    Statics is the branch of mechanics that is concerned with the analysis of loads (force and torque, or "moment") on physical systems in static equilibrium, that is, in a state where the relative positions of subsystems do not vary over time, or where components and structures are at a constant velocity. When in static equilibrium, the system is either at rest, or its center of mass moves at constant velocity.

    Dynamics is the branch of mechanics (specifically classical mechanics) concerned with the study of forces and torques and their effect on motion, as opposed to kinematics, which studies the motion of objects without reference to its causes.

    Ideally, one has learned algebra, geometry, trigonometry and analysis, before delving into physics, particularly modern physics. Hopefully, some of the basic concepts about time/space, motion, forces, electric charge and current, and magnetism have been taught in earlier science classes, along with some exposure to chemistry.
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2015
  6. Jan 25, 2015 #5


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    The AP courses originally were intended to be college-equivalent courses for students who had already completed regular high school physics. The reorganization of the AP Physics was due, in part, to the fact that high schools didn't like having so many physics classes so they simply threw motivated students into these courses, often with no physics background.

    As described on page 13 in the PDF, Physics 1 corresponds to the first semester of an algebra-based intro physics course in college. The main difference is the course spans the entire year instead of one semester. Physics 2 corresponds to the second semester. The order of the topics seems a little weird, but it's not too far off what I've seen in college courses.

    I took a look at a few sample questions, and they didn't seem particularly confusing or wordy to me. Are there specific examples of poor question you could point us to, @Yusung?
  7. Jan 28, 2015 #6


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    And the calculus based "Halliday & Resnick" type courses are Physics C: Mechanics and Physics C: E&M. They do not include "modern physics" material.
  8. Jan 28, 2015 #7


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    What's a clear photon?
  9. Jan 28, 2015 #8


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    Oops - that's my comment. It should be "Clearly, . . . ."
  10. Mar 1, 2015 #9


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    Guess I'm late to this discussion, but I just came across this thread.

    While the topics are shown in a "weird" order, teachers of the course can still present the topics in the more traditional order. For examples, there are four sample Course Planning and Pacing guides at the College Board website -- just scroll down to the middle of the following page:

    AP Physics teachers can also get a full practice exam with more questions from College Board. (Not sure if seeing more questions will help matters or make you more nervous :), but just thought I'd mention in case you are not aware.)
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