Rabu, 21 Agustus 2013

Why are you spending so much time on kinematics? (The NGSS Edition)

There is a long-standing tradition, in high school physics, of spending the bulk of the first quarter on kinematics. Definitions are slowly pieced together, ticker-tapes are dotted with carbon, motion sensors click away, graphs are drawn, and algebraic expressions are rearranged.

As teachers, we like to assure ourselves of the foundational importance of a deep understanding of position, displacement, speed, velocity, acceleration, and time.

And when one-dimensional kinematics has given its all, we reward ourselves and our students with two-dimensional kinematics. Projectiles are launched, simultaneous equations are wrestled with. And the hunter shoots the monkey.

All this is possible without a hint of Newton's laws of motion. One fourth of the school year sneaks past us while we frolic in 16th-century applied mathematics.

At the end of the year, we lament all the topics that we, again, failed to get to. Darn you, state testing! And snow days! Rainbows? Diffraction? Why the sky is blue? Electricity? Magnetism? Optics? Maybe next year.

At least my kids can solve x = v0t + 1/2 at^2 for t, even when v0 ≠ 0. So... Victory!

Have you seen what the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) expect of us in terms of kinematics problem-solving?

Approximately nothing. The first thing NGSS wants us to worry about is Newton's Second Law.

So I pose the query of the post title. And I do so not pretending to be someone who will never go off-script in terms of NGSS. NGSS content is significantly narrower than California 9-12 Physics was.

Where we choose to go "off-roading" in physics content is a value judgment. And I will cover the basics of linear motion. The basics. Not the Complete Robust University Mastery Curriculum. I'll be in and out in two weeks tops. Not six.

And I'll cover other, groovier topics not mentioned in NGSS. Some people naysay forays beyond the realm of the FCI as curriculum that's a mile wide and an inch deep. I disagree.

If NGSS needs essentially nothing in terms of kinematics, how can you justify forfeiting up to 25% of your academic year to it? I honestly don't think you can. But I've been wrong before.

Bear in mind my inquiry regards plain old high school physics. Not AP or IB. But please don't be put off by my polemical tone. That's just how I am. If you think I don't know which way is up, feel free to slap me silly with the power of your arguments. I can take it!

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