Days 10-14: Problems & Ramps

Physics

For the second week in a row, students did a lot of problems on paper and whiteboards. This week, the focus was on using constant velocity representations for calculations. I like the way we gradually add complexity to the model and students definetly need time to practice and discuss, but this has felt like a long stretch where students are doing mostly one kind of activity. I think next year I want to look at our storyline for the unit to see if we can break up the problems a bit with the dueling buggies lab practical, video analysis, and other activities that have a different feel. We also added more problems to our packet a few years ago, so students first work through what we consider the core problems, which includes problems where students are working out how to apply what they found in the lab to the written problems. We found students often didn’t have a lot of confidence after just these problems, so we added a second problem set to the constant velocity packets that are mostly about practicing what students have already figured out. I’m wondering if there are ways we could approach the early problems differently to help students build more confidence and how we could reimagine the second set of problems to focus more on lab practical types of activity.

AP Physics 1

This week was all about constant acceleration representations. We purchased some motion encoder systems last spring, so I used them to have students do a lot more exploring the graphs for ramps than I normally do. My students are getting direction on position vs. time and velocity vs. time graphs much more easily than my students usually do, and I think the tracks are helping a lot. It is still challenging for some students to visualize what is happening to the slope of a position vs. time graph to predict what the velocity vs. time graph will look like, but their struggles are pretty consistent with what I see at this point in the year, so I trust that they will get it down.

I also have a single, very small section and, while I’m sad that more students aren’t taking AP Physics 1, I am really enjoying how cohesive this class is. During mistakes whiteboarding, the students presenting have been admitting unintentional mistakes and the students not presenting have been asking questions about things they don’t understand but don’t think are mistakes, both of which are signs of the kind of class culture I strive for.

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