Gas station without pumps

2011 September 6

Quick response from Bruce Sherwood

Filed under: home school — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 20:48
Tags: , , , , ,

I sent an e-mail to the authors of the Matter and Interactions book (Ruth Chabay and Bruce Sherwood) to get the password for the auxiliary material for teachers.  Within three hours Bruce Sherwood had sent me a link to a newer archive, the password for it, and some nice comments. For example, he corrected my remark that Matter and Interactions doesn’t cover buoyancy—it is in the index and is covered on pages 163–167.

They don’t usually provide the instructor resources (2 DVDs worth of stuff) to people teaching only 2 students, but he’s going to talk to the publisher and see if they’ll give them to me.  I won’t be using most of the resources (I don’t use pre-prepared PowerPoint slides even in my University classes), and  I don’t know whether we’ll be doing any tests either, other than the AP Physics C: Mechanics test on May 14—that will depend on what the parents of the other student want.

I am curious about what lab exercises they suggest, though, as I’m feeling most uncertain of my ability to come up with pedagogically useful labs.  Whatever they have will probably need to be adapted, as we’ll have to build our own lab equipment.  I have a fairly decent electronics setup, if a rather old-fashioned one (60MHz analog oscilloscope, function generator, 30-year-old digital voltmeter, soldering iron, … — I have a picture of some of the stuff in my post Thanks, Dad!), but I don’t have much in the way of tools for physically building things: handsaws, a drill, a bench-top drill press, and a scroll saw.  I can program an Arduino, though, and design simple electronic circuits (like the motor-controller board I designed for the robotics club), so I think we’ll be able to muddle through.  The students will have to help design the labs to see whether our computational models describe the real world (or, conversely, to come up with models to explain our data).

Some of the material for instructors is available free to anyone.  For example, there are podcast lectures for the whole course:

Modern Mechanics, presented by Ruth Chabay

Electric & Magnetic Interactions, presented by Matthew Kohlmyer

I don’t expect to use lectures much—both the students can learn well from reading, so we’ll spend our time together debugging programs and doing labs, not lecturing or watching videos.  If we disagree about how to interpret the lab results or how to model some phenomenon, then we may have to have a discussion, but I suspect that referring to the book will be faster than listening to a podcast.


  1. It sounds like a fun year!

    You don’t say anything about pencil and paper problem sets. You probably want to have your students do some of those too, since they’ll need the practice, I expect, for the AP test (and if you’re not giving tests, you really need some way to make sure regularly that they’re really understanding everything you think they’re understanding).

    Comment by LSquared — 2011 September 9 @ 11:08 | Reply

    • I’ll have the students do some of the exercises from the book, and we’ll compare answers to see if we all understand things. No grading for that, though, just checking for misunderstanding.

      The programming projects will be more substantial and will test both understanding and skill at applying it.

      Comment by gasstationwithoutpumps — 2011 September 9 @ 12:40 | Reply

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