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[Phys-L] Re: Goals of the Introductory Course

Hi --

On 03/22/05 18:13, you wrote:
We have a single calculus-based two-semester introductory course
Here is my (very) brief list for the first-semester course, so far:

1. Kinematics (1d and 2d)
2. Newton's first law as a statement about reference frames.
2a. The concept of a reference frame.
3. Newton's second law applied to a variety of situations.
4. Newton's third law.
5. Conservation of momentum.
6. Conservation of energy.
7. Rotational kinematics.
8. Rotational dynamics.
9. Conservation of angular momentum.
10. Gravity.
I need some peer review on this.

I'm surprised you haven't gotten more feedback on this.
I think you're doing the right thing trying to get
the "big picture". It's nice to be discussing strategy
rather than tactics.

1) It may help to send to re-send that to the list,
paired with your corresponding second-semester list.
It's hard to judge what's "too lean" without the context.

2) It's hard to judge what's "too much to cover"
without knowing how much depth will be required in
each area. That's a bit hard to convey in a
simple email, but you can try.

3) If you have a preponderance of customers in a
particular area (e.g. pre-med) go to the upper-division
professors in that area and ask them what they want
to see by way of preparation for their courses. (You
don't have to do exactly as they say, but it doesn't
hurt to ask.)

4) Sometimes I find it helpful to work backwards
from the final exam. Think of a couple of beautiful
problems that you would like to put on the final,
and then ask yourself what you have to teach so
that the kids will be able to handle those problems.

Then it's clear what your job is. Teaching to the
test is fine ... it it's a good test!

As an example of what I mean:

A duck sits in a large pond, bobbing up and down,
radiating ripples that spread out in all directions.
Derive the scaling law that describes the height of
the ripples as a function of distance from the duck.

This requires combining what you know in at least
three of the ten areas I listed in my previous note.
It has pretty high discriminatory power: those who
learned what I want them to learn can answer almost
immediately ... while others are very unlikely to
obtain the answer by guessing.
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