Thursday, February 07, 2013

AP Physics 1 and AP Physics 2

After watching the non-boiling pot of AP Physics B Redesign for a few years, I decided to look away until something actually happened.

I looked back today, and something appears to have happened. The College Board now has a full-fledged web page with FAQs, PDFs, and even a non-YouTube video.

AP Physics 1 and AP Physics 2

Here's the preamble:
"Guided by National Research Council and National Science Foundation recommendations, the AP Program spent several years collaborating with master AP teachers and eminent educators from universities and colleges to evaluate and revise the AP Physics B course. This collaboration led to a decision to replace AP Physics B with two new courses, AP Physics 1: Algebra-based and AP Physics 2: Algebra-based. The new courses were endorsed enthusiastically by higher education officials and will benefit all members of the AP community. AP will begin offering the eagerly awaited courses in the 2014–15 academic year, and it will discontinue the AP Physics B program following the 2013–14 academic year."

As I feared, AP Physics 1 is essentially "All Mechanics All The Time" (with a toe-dip into electricity).

AP Physics 2 is "Everything Else".

Given the extent to which AP Physics 1 is a Modeler's Paradise, and the propensity of so many high school physics teachers to dwell in the realm of mechanics, I wonder if a market for AP Physics 2 will ever materialize. And if it does, how long that market will remain viable for the College Board. I foresee many high schools offering AP Physics 1 alongside their traditional physics course—both intended for seniors. There will be no place for AP Physics 2.

I don't see a bright future for AP Physics at my own school. Implementing an AP Physics 1-2 sequence would institute the kind of tracking we've avoided by eschewing any "honors" or "accelerated" science classes. Isolating the best and brightest from the rest of the student population in a first-year course is not the way to go. Our current Physics 1 course is nicely heterogeneous while not "unchallenging" to our top students.

I presume there's been some attempt to align Physics 1 with NGSS as a practical matter. NGSS seems to have left electric circuits out, so it's curious to see them in as the token non-mechanics item in AP Physics 1.

Jump to AP Physics C? We really don't have a sufficient population of phyz-excited students who have also completed AP Calculus AB as sophomores or juniors.

Then again, if AP Physics is abandoned, a year's worth of robust curriculum is also lost. AP Bio, AP Chem, and our new AP Environmental Science will soldier on with one fewer competitor in the market. I can't get excited about such a marginalization of physics.

I'll need some time (and inspiration) to find a path worth following.

UPDATE: Two years later, I'm teacher AP1 and AP2, but do not recommend the exam.


Mr. Lulai said...

AP Physics 1 is mechanics + sound + basic circuits for multiple reasons:
1 - AP Physics 1 is designed to allow folks to add topics they want to add. You may want to add light because you really like optics and waves. You might choose to add 20th century physics because you are passionate about it. You may choose to add other topics because you state REQUIRES a state test on those topics.
2 - if 1 semester didn't cover both linear and rotational mechanics, 1 semester wouldn't be accepted by many colleges.
3 - colleges do want both linear and rotational mechanics.

I think much of this is fairly well laid out on the ap central website.

have a good one.
Paul Lulai

Dean Baird said...

Thanks Paul.

This is a developing story and I'm likely to get aspects of it wrong as I navigate through it.

You make it sound as if AP Physics 1 is very pliable. Teachers can tailor it with this or that favorite topic. In my experience, pressures from students, parents, administrators and even teachers push the "this and that" out to allow deeper focus on the material covered on the exam. Other topics are interesting in the opinion of the instructor, but the clients are here to put 5s on their transcripts.

More importantly, if AP Physics 1 is at all cafeteria style, who on Earth will be beating a path to the door of AP Physics 2?

High school students should get a year of biology, a year of chemistry, and a year of physics. Schools then offer AP's in those sciences. It's a tough sell to tell a student, "Congrats on your outstanding achievement in AP Physics. What say you follow it up with some outstanding achievement in... AP Physics?"

We only have them for four years, and they've got other things to do. Sure, some students follow Calculus AB with BC, but that's in the core subject of math.

I just don't see a viable market for AP Physics 2. Which is sad, because that's where most of the grooviest topics are.

Dean Baird said...

And while I can understand the full-on Mechanics that is AP1, I scratch my head at the inclusion of electric circuits (even an introduction) in AP1.

Colleges may well want linear and rotational mechanics for semester equivalence; I get that. Were they beating a drum for inclusion of electric circuits, too? Because that would surprise me. And I often enjoy surprises.

Notable exception: seeing talk (on the APB EDG forum of covering the whole of AP1 and AP2 in a single school year. That scores a face palm!

Joseph said...

As a student that went through a school with multiple tracks, I'm curious. Could you say more about your objections to having honors/advanced courses for students that want them?

Gonzo said...

The original statement that students need credit for any calculus as a prerequisite is hardly supported by lots of student successes all around the country on C:M and C:E&M where Calculus is a co-requisite. Going with your current Physics 1 and then following with C for students that have Calculus simultaneously IS the most common modus in public schools in my experience.

Anonymous said...

Is it possible to do AP Physics B #2 first? That would leave the mechanics (alt or calc) for senior year.

Patrick said...

I think you're right. AP Physics 2 isn't what we'll be offering at our school. However, we have a large enough student base to offer AP Physics 1, AP Physics C: Mechanics and AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism. All three courses have some amount of "wiggle room" to address other topics, which I'm doing at the behest of our local university to qualify for concurrent credit.

I feel like we'll be adequately preparing students in the engineering or physics track to obtain mastery of many concepts before stepping foot in a college, while still offering AP Physics 1 to dull the shock of a college physics course for those upperclassmen who are interested (or possibly, to skip it).

I like the idea of offering a course much like those you might see in a first-semester college course, rather than the overwhelming amount of material (I think it took me three trimesters in college) that was the scope of knowledge in AP Physics B. Students might actually get a chance to digest and review a bit.

Units like quantum theory, relativity, fluid mechanics, and thermodynamics are easily done in a few weeks at this level, and might be a good way to round out the school year after AP exams (sometimes we go a month after they take them!)

Physics 2 might not have many adopters, but it may find support amongst schools where Calculus is not highly developed. Doubt it, though.

Anonymous said...

I teach AP Physics in a Physics First school which is seeking to do AP 1 & 2 in a single year with a double block schedule for non freshmen. I dont think this would even be possible if the students didn't already have a year of physics under wraps.

I believe the major casualty in my school will be AP Physics C and I am not sure how I feel about it. The major reason being is that if a student chooses to take Physics C in my school that would imply that they would allocate 5 full class blocks to Physics in their high school career. That seems a bit much.
Overall I feel like Physics C does not sufficiently differentiate itself from the same topics covered in Physics 1 & 2. The use of Calculus is restricted to only the simplest situations and students are rarely asked more taxing types of questions that involve a Calc based approach.

Because of the lack of Phy 1 and 2 problems I am going to use the AP C questions for the mechanics and e&m portion of Phy 1 & 2. I think what makes the most sense is for students who are concurrently taking AP Calc to choose their path Phy 1 & 2 or AP C Mech and E & M at the mid year point.

What are your thoughts?

Anonymous said...

At an AP Workshop, I was told that electric circuits topic was included in order to conform with NYS Regents exams.

It's strange to put fluids in with Physics 2. After all, it's mechanics except "per unit volume".

Unknown said...

I am currently teaching AP Physics 1 and next year I plan to teach AP Physics 2. The plan is to alternate between teaching AP Physics 1 and AP Physics 2 every other year. This way, the students that want to take both years have that opportunity, and the students that just want to take AP Physics can take either one (This might mean taking AP Physics before Chemistry). Because there is so little overlap between AP Physics 1 and 2 I plan to teach AP Physics 2 as a first year class and add in what they need to know from AP Physics 1 during the "Wiggle room" time. In this way, the students that want to take both AP Physics 1 and 2 will either take 1 first, or 2 first. I haven't found anywhere on the AP websites stating that AP Physics 1 is a prerequisite for AP Physics 2. Is this a crazy plan? So far I haven't met anyone that is planning to do a similar thing. Any thoughts?

Unknown said...

it is a nice option

Anonymous said...

I think that the new changes made to the AP physics 1 exam are not in the best interest of the students:
1) There is no way in the world that any college would give college physics credit for a class that is 95% physical science and 5% physics. I have been teaching for 17 years at the college and high school levels ( I have two masters degrees in theoretical physics) and I have not seen a college class in physics that would be comparable to this AP Physics 1
2) I do not think that this new "curriculum" will make our students competitive - there is no emphasis on problem solving, it is now more directed toward writing "what would happen if" case scenarios...where did the math go? The language of science is mathematics!
3) Perhaps this course should have been called AP Physical science 1?
4) It is understood that the job of the public school system is to provide a minimum knowledge base for the masses, but there are thousands of very bright young men and women who seek a strong science foundation at the high school level for whom classes such as AP physics 1 will put them them at a disadvantage in college level classes compared to peers from other countries (think China).
5) We should be increasing the rigor, not lowering the standards.
6) I think that the college board dropped the ball on this one...

ALD said...

"I am going to use the AP C questions for the mechanics and e&m portion of Phy 1 & 2"

I believe this will leave the students unprepared. C and 1&2 questions are completely different.

Unknown said...

Yes and No.
Since when is interpreting an equation less important than its value?
I agree there is definitely a shift from the algebraic skills toward a more conceptual understanding. Is that a bad thing? Only if the others skills are abandoned.
What good is a numerical solution if to the student it's still just a number?
What does a mathematician name their first born child?

Number sense creating "Semi Quantittative Models" are no less valuable in any context.

A conceptual understanding of the ideas should allow students to develop mathematical constructs that are consistent with their model rather than memorize an equations.

A conceptual understanding is not lowering of the standard but a different representation of the understanding of the concept.

I agree the emphasis is different, and my students did not fare well on last years exam.

To your point would a student be expected to solve for the tension in a rope for a compound system on an incline. I think that that problem is invaluable in checking
Problem solving strategies
Application of sum of the forces
Vector analysis
System of equations

The other big issue is that you have 17 years of methodology refined toward a way of thinking and solving certain types of questions.

I stress to my students that both models need to be agreement to have a complete understanding.

Representing information and models in multiple ways (NGSS)

I think that your expertise as an instructor should allow you to still emphasize those skills that you feel are paramount.

China has more honors students then we have students so I am not really sure how we are going to outcompete CHINA, unless we get more kids into our programs.

I teach at the college as well and am amazed that frequency and number of students that do not know when an answer is ridiculous especially after doing a lab where the observed the phenomenon. I think that is the skill they are missing. Students are unable to relate the numerical data to the physical world (Physics)

So I guess that's the heart of the matter most students are doing math in Physics and little PHYSICS!

PLUG & CHUG does not equal Physics