Recent Tutoring Session Reviews
"Today's session we continued our work with circuits. We worked on review problems for the student's upcoming test. We practiced questions requiring combining complex circuits and applications of Ohm's law to find current and voltage drop across resistors and branches. We also worked on a couple of problems involving Coulomb's law."
"Today the student and I focused our session around teaching her the concepts that she missed in the first semester of physics. I was very glad to help her build a solid conceptual basis because I am confident that it will improve her understanding of her current topics, exponentially. There are some fundamental physics concepts that one must know in order to understand the "why's" and "how's" of physics and so we started of focusing on those. Specifically we focused our attention on Newton's laws which have relevance in every topic she will cover in her course. Being able to derive the basic equation Fnet = m x a was a big deal because it forces her to understand why this is true and how to use it in conceptual problems. We were able to relate situations to specific changes in force via our discussing about Newton's laws. I know just how tricky these problems can be in Physics and so I spent some time going over organization of information that is presented in the problems. I went over some common phrases that are used in the word problems that have mathematical relevance so that she knows what to look for when setting up her problem (i.e. "at rest" or "constant" or "free-falling"). We also went over how to draw free-body diagrams and discussed why they are so useful in answering problems. I know that she has heard of these diagrams but I've never seen her use them before and this is a contributing factor to why she is unable to start many problems. After doing a few problems that related to both Newton's laws and drawing free-body diagrams, I noticed a huge difference in the student's ability to answer conceptual problems. We discussed different types of force (i.e. gravitational, frictional, normal, applied, etc.) to understand how to use them in problems and how to visualize them in every-day activities like sitting in a chair or driving a car. The best way, in my opinion, to learn physics is by relating the abstract laws to what we know about events happening around us everyday. It is much easier to identify factors in the situation as well as predict an outcome. I reminded her about the difference between displacement & distance and the difference between a scalar and a vector quantity. Even though it is such an easy concept, students very often forget what a vector quantity means and so they get mathematical problems incorrect by forgetting the direction aspect of a vector quantity. I want to make sure that this doesn't happen with the student since most of the unknowns in physics are vector quantities. We ended our review session here and began to review her current assignments on momentum. Because we had gone over conceptual information, it was a night and day change in the student's progress from last week. She breezed through the problems because she had an organized set-up procedure and knew the concepts behind what the problems were asking and knew how to solve them. The second assignment she had was asking her to write a laboratory procedure to find experimentally the velocity of an object before and after collision. Understanding her concepts of physics allowed her to effortlessly write an outstanding and clear procedure on how to solve for a velocity. I am very pleased to see the student improving and that she realizes the importance of covering concepts before rushing into assignments. Next week we will continue our review of topics from semester 1 as well as review her current assignments."
"The homework that the student needed help on focused on the topic of Conservation of Energy, which involved potential energy and kinetic energy. The homework problems presented scenarios where an object rolls/slides down an incline and then shoots off a table at some horizontal speed. On these problems, students are asked what happens if the horizontal speed is double, if the incline height is doubled, if the coefficient friction is increased, etc."