Letter to the Editor

in response to an article by Art Hobson in the Summer 2010 Newsletter titled: "A Better Way to Increase Physics Majors: Greater Emphasis on Concepts"

Stewart E. Brekke

I agree with Dr. Hobson that we must also instill the ideas of physics besides teaching primarily mathematical problem solving to high school students. However, a sound basic course in physics problem solving is also necessary. Too often, students are given a course in conceptual physics without the math. For non-science majors in high school, I prefer to also give them the problem solving because they may later change their minds and want to take physics or chemistry in college and find they need a great deal of work and effort to just compete with the other science majors. Too often conceptual physics has meant a non-mathematical course, which deludes the student into thinking physics is all words and interesting experiments and demonstrations.  Then the student takes a real college course only to become totally overwhelmed when the mathematics becomes the main part of the college course. We need strong ideas as well as a strong mathematics component in the high school course. I have worked mostly with inner city minority students and have found that with proper preparation and lessons, using drills and practices, and a lot of problem solving help, even the most at-risk students can do a strong mathematical course.

 Stewart E. Brekke MS in Ed, MA, is retired from Chicago Public Schools where he taught high school physics and chemistry. He can be reached at stewabruk@aol.com

Disclaimer- The articles and opinion pieces found in this issue of the APS Forum on Education Newsletter are not peer refereed and represent solely the views of the authors and not necessarily the views of the APS.