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Marie Sklodovska Curie (1836-1934) Nobel prize winner for physics (discovery of radioactivity, 1903) Nobel prize winner for chemistry (discovery of Po and Ra, 1911). Physics is the queen. Nadina Gheorghiu, Bryn Mawr College George Y. Panasyuk, University of Pennsylvania.

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Physics is the queen l.jpg

Marie Sklodovska Curie (1836-1934)

Nobel prize winner for physics (discovery of radioactivity, 1903)

Nobel prize winner for chemistry (discovery of Po and Ra, 1911)

Physics is the queen

Nadina Gheorghiu, Bryn Mawr College

George Y. Panasyuk, University of Pennsylvania

N. Gheorghiu & G.Y. Panasyuk 8/1/07 AAPT 2007 Summer Meeting, Greensboro NC


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Abstract

Amongst science disciplines, no doubt physics is the most challenging one. In the still widely spread traditional science curriculum, physics comes only at the end, moreover, as an elective course. How this science curriculum can affect our undergraduate students’ attitudes towards physics and its role in understanding the world around them? For instance, courses that are more descriptive are known to enhance memorization. Students’ learning should be based on understanding and analytical skills, which are more enhanced by physics courses. Two example problems are provided, in which the conceptual understanding prevails the routine work. Our own high school education as well as our teaching experience in Romania, Russia, and in the United States showed that learning physics first is more cognitive beneficial and that it needs to be implemented in all the United States schools.

N. Gheorghiu & G.Y. Panasyuk 8/1/07 AAPT 2007 Summer Meeting, Greensboro NC


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Why study physics first?

Physics is crucial to understanding the world around us, the world inside us, and the world beyond us. It is the most basic and fundamental science…

Physics is interesting, relevant, and it can prepare you for great jobs in a wide variety of places. Shouldn’t you take a physics course?”

American Physical Society, 2007

N. Gheorghiu & G.Y. Panasyuk 8/1/07 AAPT 2007 Summer Meeting, Greensboro NC


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“All the mathematical sciences are founded on relations between physical laws and laws of numbers, so that the aim of exact science is to reduce the problems of nature to the determination of quantities by operations with numbers.”

James C. Maxwell

physicist and mathematician

(1831 – 1879)

N. Gheorghiu & G.Y. Panasyuk 8/1/07 AAPT 2007 Summer Meeting, Greensboro NC


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When first studying physics?

Question: When did you first hear about Newton’s laws?

EU student: In the 6th grade.

US student: In the 12th grade.

Learning and understanding: Improving Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science

in U.S. High Schools: Report of the Content Panel for Physics, Committee on Programs

for Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in American High Schools,

National Research Council (2002), http://www.nap.edu/catalog/10361.html

N. Gheorghiu & G.Y. Panasyuk 8/1/07 AAPT 2007 Summer Meeting, Greensboro NC


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Science makes the topPhysics 1st could make it better!

National Assessment of Educational Progress,

U.S.Department of Education, 2006

HS enrollment in the sciences, 1890 - 1982 (above)

HS graduation science credits, 1982 - 2000 (below)

K. Sheppard and D.M. Robbins, J. Chem. Ed. 82, 561 (2005)

N. Gheorghiu & G.Y. Panasyuk 8/1/07 AAPT 2007 Summer Meeting, Greensboro NC


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All right, there are several solutions…Which do you think is the best one?

  • Teach physics first, starting in the 9th grade.

    Marjorie G. Bardeen and Leon M. Lederman, Science 281, 178 (1998)

  • Why not starting physics in the 5th grade?

N. Gheorghiu & G.Y. Panasyuk 8/1/07 AAPT 2007 Summer Meeting, Greensboro NC


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Curriculum & Textbooks

“Less is more” for an effective instruction!

N. Gheorghiu & G.Y. Panasyuk 8/1/07 AAPT 2007 Summer Meeting, Greensboro NC


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Is there a recipe for this problem?

N. Gheorghiu & G.Y. Panasyuk 8/1/07 AAPT 2007 Summer Meeting, Greensboro NC


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Understanding vs. Memorization

Learning vs. Grade Race

Jerry Gollub andRobin Spital, Physics Today p. 48,May 2002

The Goal:Learning & Understanding

N. Gheorghiu & G.Y. Panasyuk 8/1/07 AAPT 2007 Summer Meeting, Greensboro NC


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Example 1: A 2D motion problem

N. Gheorghiu & G.Y. Panasyuk 8/1/07 AAPT 2007 Summer Meeting, Greensboro NC


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Solution to the 2D motion problem

Done!!

N. Gheorghiu & G.Y. Panasyuk 8/1/07 AAPT 2007 Summer Meeting, Greensboro NC


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True solution to the 2D motion problem

Wrong!

Correct solution

N. Gheorghiu & G.Y. Panasyuk 8/1/07 AAPT 2007 Summer Meeting, Greensboro NC


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Example 2: A geometrical optics problem

Why a person who is using otherwise not

so strong glasses can read without glasses

at bright day light?

N. Gheorghiu & G.Y. Panasyuk 8/1/07 AAPT 2007 Summer Meeting, Greensboro NC


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Solution to the geometrical optics problem

pupil

retina

point object

image

  • Concepts at work

  • The eye as a camera having a variable pinhole

  • Ray tracing and image formation through a lens

N. Gheorghiu & G.Y. Panasyuk 8/1/07 AAPT 2007 Summer Meeting, Greensboro NC


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Physics first!

Reference for the two problems:

“Problems in Physics”, Quant (Russian journal for high school students),

edited by academicians I. K. Kikoin and A. N. Kolmogorov

Our acknowledgements to Bryn Mawr College

N. Gheorghiu & G.Y. Panasyuk 8/1/07 AAPT 2007 Summer Meeting, Greensboro NC


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