Fan Cart technology seems to have regressed...
Jacobs Physics
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1w ago
 In virtually every way, physics teaching equipment now is far superior to physics teaching equipment a decade or two or three ago.  Vernier and Pasco have continued to innovate, making the probes and toys they sell better with every iteration. Except, for some reason, simple fan carts.   First, a warning: I bought four of the modern Vernier fan carts (pictured at top) last year.  Only one of them still works.  They hit the floor, through normal use not abuse; and the spokes supporting the fan casing broke, and the fan blade chipped, and now they just ..read more
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Happy Thanksgiving from a different sort of family...
Jacobs Physics
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2M ago
  Although I thoroughly enjoy hunting for hand turkeys on AP exams with my friend Jen, I don't actually like turkey.  And the other two members of my household are both vegetarian.  So the main course of our Thanksgiving dinner is shown above: Shari's macaroni and cheese, based on a recipe I discovered on a sports blog. The best part of a trimester system is giving a major exam right before Thanksgiving break.  Invariably, my students outperform what I might have predicted a month ago - because they take this major exam quite seriously, because they have matured both physi ..read more
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Modified Atwood machine that *slows down*
Jacobs Physics
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2M ago
The problem above is from 5 Steps to a 5: AP Physics 1, the "Elite Student Edition."  This situation provides an opportunity to find out how well students are doing with understanding the meaning of acceleration. Ask: immediately after the carts are pushed or released, in which experiment is the magnitude of the carts' acceleration greater?  And, are the directions of the top cart's acceleration the same, or different, in the two experiments? The correct answer refers to free body diagrams of both carts in each experiment.  The hanging block experiences forces from the rope ..read more
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Mail Time: how do you rank the forces on a block dropped onto a spring?
Jacobs Physics
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2M ago
I was asked about a ranking task in which block 1 is dropped onto block 2, which is attached to a vertical spring.  The blocks compress the spring, and come briefly to rest in the position shown in the right-hand diagram: We're asked to rank the (magnitude of) three forces at this instant of maximum spring compression: Fa is the upward force of block 2 on block 1 Fb is the downward force of block 1 on block 2 Fc is the downward gravitational force of the earth on block 1  Student 1's reasoning was: We know that Fa is equal to Fb because they are a Newton's 3rd law force pair.&n ..read more
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What does "relational learning and collaboration" mean? It means creating a team culture in the classroom.
Jacobs Physics
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3M ago
One of the official long-term goals for my school’s faculty is to improve “relational learning and collaboration”.  Great!  But the first step in attaining this goal is to, um, define exactly what this phrase means.  And, as you may expect if you’ve read this blog for a while, I have a different view than what most would come up with. Everything I’ve read, everything our faculty has discussed, uses the term “relationship” exclusively in the context of teacher-to-student.  One-to-one.  If the teacher builds positive relationships with each student, they’ve done a good j ..read more
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An email I wrote to my AP Physics 1 class after their second problem set
Jacobs Physics
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5M ago
We didn't do great - but we never do, on this problem set.  The two questions I'm addressing here are based on the graph below, where they were asked to calculate an instantaneous speed at t= 4 s, and where they were asked what familiar object might perform this motion.   Please read on, 'cause there's an extra credit word buried here. 1. The instantaneous speed is given by the slope of a tangent line.  That means draw the tangent line, and take the slope.  That does NOT mean to just divide the y value by the x value!  Just because speed is in units of m/s does no ..read more
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Mail time: a daily quiz question about average speed
Jacobs Physics
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5M ago
What is the purpose of this question from one of the daily quizzes in your AP class? My guess is that you're highlighting a misconception. True or false: One method of finding an object’s average speed is to find its speed during one part of its motion, add to the speed during the rest of its motion, and divide by 2. Yup, you got it!  I'm highlighting this amazingly common misconception.  Usually the misconception appears in response to questions like "a car travels the first 50 km of its trip at a constant speed of 20 km/hr, and the second 50 km of its trip at a constant speed of ..read more
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Setting up AP questions in the lab: 2016 P1 #2, the bouncy ball experiment
Jacobs Physics
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5M ago
A unique feature of my in-person summer institutes is the final morning of the week, when participants are asked to choose a released AP physics question to set up in the laboratory.  I think of it as "studio time", which functions similarly to my AP class's open-ended lab assignments throughout the month of April.  In studio time, we not only create these setups, we share our ideas and creations. This is my seventh post based on experimental setups of AP free response questions!  The others: * Block and cylinder on incline (Milo Jacobs) (2021) * Student on a raft (Steph ..read more
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Don’t let high school students revise – make them start from scratch
Jacobs Physics
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6M ago
Greetings from the NSTA conference in Chicago.  Today’s post sprung forth after I attended a session about “chickenology” – two Ohio science teachers who are also chicken farmers use the creation of a gravity-fed chicken feeder as an engineering design project.  They bring their chickens into school to test the designs.  Fantastic.  I attended the workshop alongside Abbie Mills, Woodberry’s engineering teacher, and we got to talking about the design process in the high school classroom – how the chickenologists approached design, how Abbie does, how my wife Shari the cerami ..read more
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Lab always takes longer than you think...
Jacobs Physics
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6M ago
I just finished this year's Conceptual Physics Summer Institute.  It's always fun to share laboratory ideas, especially the "come and show me" exercises that form the ground state of my courses.   At the institute, participating teachers did two of these activities - one with motion graphs, one with circuits.  The question I was asked throughout the weekend was, "how long do you spend on these labs in your class?"  And the answer is, for activities that took only minutes for each individual teacher, I generally spend a full week of class.   Folks were a ..read more
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