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.
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