AP Physics Course Expectations

Advanced Placement Physics B: Course Expectations
Mr. Andrade
Central High School

Identification: This is the Advanced Placement, B course in physics. In universities, its equivalent is offered as a one-year, terminal course - designed as a more thorough - though less mathematically rigorous - treatment of physics for life science, pre-med, other applied science and non-science majors who need one physics course as a distribution requirement.

Purpose: There are two, equally good, reasons why a high school student might decide to take this course. First, he/she may like the subject enough to desire a more profound, college-level understanding of its complexities. Physics teaches a person how to think analytically and the thrill of successful problem solving, coupled with a deeper insight into the everyday function of the world around them, instills self-confidence and peace of mind. Second, the student may desire to take the AP Physics B Exam in order to obtain college credit for this course and thereby accelerate their undergraduate program. In this respect, it needs to be stressed that this course may not qualify for credit towards a physics or engineering degree. For these majors, universities often require a more rigorous treatment of this subject matter, with a much greater emphasis on calculus. Thus the student taking the Physics B course and majoring in these fields may still need to take introductory physics in college. Of course, the preparation of such a student will be much better than average. Having said this, individual colleges vary greatly in their requirements and several students pursuing engineering degrees have had the Physics B course accepted for credit.

The AP Physics B Exam: This three hour exam is divided into two, ninety minute sections. The first includes 70 multiple choice questions, the second contains six or seven, multiple-part free response questions (word problems). The exams take place between the first and second weeks of May each year.

Course Outline: The over-riding consideration in this, and any AP course, is the large quantity of material that must be covered in order to prepare completely for the AP exam in May. This mandates a rapid pace. There will be less time for review than other courses can offer, and not all of the material that needs to be addressed can be covered in the classroom - the student must read and study at home. We meet for 90 minutes, every other day. Typically, class resources will be budgeted as follows: a) we open with time for questions concerning the previous day's material or about concepts or problems encountered during the night's study; b) then we move into lecture introducing and illustrating new concepts - and punctuated with demonstrations as frequently as possible; c) finally sample problems, based on the new material, are solved. Certain days will be dedicated solely to problem solving and/or laboratories and activities. Many online and multimedia resources will be used to help the student gain an understanding of the material.

Prerequisites for the course: Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, Biology, Chemistry, understanding of basic Trigonometry, vector analysis, graphical analysis, ability to solve word problems, ability to convert units of measure, ability to read and write English fluently, ability to read and understand a textbook, self-discipline, and self-motivation.

Study: The rapid pace of this course necessitates a large quantity of at-home preparation on the part of the student (and teacher!). Time must be spent going over class notes, reading new and re-reading old material from the two texts, solving conceptual and numerical word problems, and thinking. Physics is unique from many courses in that almost all of its components require periods of unbroken concentration and coherent thought in order to master them. You can not really "get" physics merely by reading the words. Proper and fruitful textbook study involves reading, pausing, considering, analyzing book graphics, and sometimes note taking.

Texts: The AP Physics B course here at Central High School uses Physics: Principles with Applications, 5th ed., by Douglas Giancoli. This book does an excellent job of explaining the principles of physics and has an enormous amount of examples in the book for problem solving. There is also an online companion website with additional resources and practice problems.

Word Problems: There will be homework assigned for each chapter of the textbook. These should be done according to a set, step by step scheme (including the writing of related quantities, symbols and data, base equations, solved equations, and problem solutions with units, as well as occasional dimensional analysis). These problems are tough but, in the end, enjoyable (dare I say fun?). All students must have a good scientific calculator that they are familiar with. Also, students should consider forming study groups - often several heads are better than one.

Class Participation: Active class participation is encouraged in science. Our class periods are relatively few (given the magnitude of what lies ahead) and, therefore, precious. Use it to clarify doubts encountered in your study at home.

Notes: Lectures will completely cover the major themes of this course. They will be organized according to the AP Physics B syllabus. Lectures will be presented in a way that should be clear to the student, less cluttered with obscuring detail than is often found in textbooks, so that students can see just what the important points really are. Class notes on this lecture material should prove most valuable, especially when plowing though the textbooks at home. Most of the conventions for notation will be the widely recognized ones used by Giancoli.

Resources: There are a number of good resources that should be of aid throughout this course. Keep them in mind as we go along: 1) In addition to the textbook we are using, there are ten or so other good physics textbooks in my room. These may be consulted and/or borrowed at the student's convenience. Often, a different presentation of a theme helps to make it clearer. Also, different texts have different strengths; 2) My website, www.physicsmedic.org, which has links to a variety of physics resources to help you gain a mastery of the knowledge 3) The list of objectives for the AP exam, taken from the types of questions asked on exams over the years; 4) The practice AP Physics B exams you will receive throughout the year - complete with multiple choice and free response sections; 5) your own, accumulating base of solved word problems in a bound notebook.

Grading: We will have three or four exams per quarter. These will emphasize the skills demanded by the AP test - there will be an emphasis on problem solving. In addition, there will be quizzes, labs, and homework problem sets. These exams will contain released exam items from past AP exams.

Labs: We should have a lab once every two weeks. Again, time is the constraint here and this is unfortunately the component of this course that will be the first to be sacrificed if we get behind (other schools offer this course at almost double the class time per week). Emphasis will be placed on in-class demonstrations should labs be curtailed. More complete lab write-ups will be required, occasionally. Due to equipment and lab supply limitations, some labs may be virtual labs done using software or online resources.

Me: I am here to help you succeed in this course. There are liable to be many questions with concepts and word problems - encountered in evening study. Working in study groups should help students answer many of these on their own. Otherwise, I am available for questions and extra help during free periods, breaks, and after school. Please feel free to come and talk if you are having doubts or difficulties. You may also email me with questions at dandrade@bridgeportedu.net. I usually check my email each evening and on weekends.

Remember, your success in this course depends on your effort and the time you spend on this course. This is a college level course, and as such, it will require college-level time. You should be spending, at a minimum, one hour, every day, on this course. Even if there is no official homework, you should be reviewing your notes and reading the textbook. Take time to explore the web links on the class web site and explore physics in more depth.

-- dma
(adapted from Mr. Harmon, CDS High School)

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