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*From*: Richard Tarara <rtarara@SAINTMARYS.EDU>*Date*: Thu, 23 Sep 1999 13:46:40 -0500

Leigh,

You have a luxury that many of us don't share. Our courses, conceptual and

calculus level (no physics majors), are populated by students with a VAST

range of experiences in physics--from none to considerable. Even those

coming from HS Physics classes display knowledge and skills again ranging

from none to considerable. It is therefore all but impossible to proceed

with these classes assuming much of anything lest we completely blow away

the 'nones'. The trick is to somehow keep from boring the 'considerables'

while trying to get everyone up to some common plateau from which to

proceed. Some years this works better than others. If you get a large

group of the 'considerables' mixed in with some of the 'nones', it is all

but impossible to keep from boring them to some extent despite course

structures that encourage extra work and exploration for those having an

'easy time of it.'

Rick

*******************************************************

Richard W. Tarara

Department of Chemistry & Physics

Notre Dame, IN 46556

219-284-4664

rtarara@saintmarys.edu

FREE Physics Educational Software

Available for Download

see: www.saintmarys.edu/~rtarara/ for details

New Win9.x and PoweMac packages available.

The Animated Chalkboard2000, Relativity

package is now available.

*******************************************************

----- Original Message -----

From: Leigh Palmer <palmer@SFU.CA>

To: <PHYS-L@lists.nau.edu>

Sent: Thursday, September 23, 1999 12:31 PM

Subject: Re: Questions on Neg. and Pos. Acceleration

Here at Simon Fraser we require that our introductory physics

students have previously taken a high school physics course

that includes one- and two-dimensional kinematics. In teaching

this course this semester (the "algebra/trig" course) I did just

what Stan Greenspoon suggests. I started with the vector

kinematics that they supposedly should already know and then did

linear kinematics as a special case. I can't say that it reduced

the usual rate of confusion and misconception, however, because I

did no measurements, but I agree with Stan. We also impose on

those students a corequisite calculus course, and it seems more

than 90% of them have already been exposed to some in high

school. For that reason I also introduce the calculus to the

extent that I associate slopes with derivatives. Polynomials are

as far as we've got so far, but I intend to do this again when we

get to harmonic motion.

Our postsecondary students are not blank slates. They bring a set

of tools to their studies acquired over a long educational

process, and the people we see are those who assembled the best

sets of tools. Too many postsecondary physics teachers assume

that they must teach students as though they are as helpless as

the most naive among them. That is a bad idea in my view. I have

320 students in this class. If I waste one minute of my lecture

time it costs five and one third person-hours of their time. They

are paying me for what I can provide to them. Down deep they

really don't want high school all over again.

Leigh

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