image by Ken Crawford

Following up on the post about why study Physics First, here is the first cut at next year’s syllabus.

It’s pretty reading heavy, and since the  student in question did a lot of conceptual mechanics last year in 8th grade, we jump right in to light & the universe, saving practical mechanics for last.  This may not be suitable for all students.


Books & Videos:


Conceptual Physics by Paul Hewitt

Physics Matters from Singapore Math (textbook, workbook and answer keys) – this is not a good teaching text — it’s more a summary of rules, but my elder daughter really likes it.  She is coming to it after reading Hewitt, which gives her the big picture, but she appreciates being able to translate it into specific problems.

Trade books

Neil deGrasse Tyson, Death by Black Hole

Robert Gilmore, Alice in Quantumland: An Allegory of Quantum Physics

Richard Feynman, Six Easy Pieces


Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey

Richard Wolfson Physics and Our Universe: How It All Works (Great Courses courses, 60 lectures)


Nuffield Experiments (free resource)


(We take “summer vacation” in December and January)

Physics Syllabus for Physics First Class (9th grade)

  1. Big Science

    1. Tyson, Death by Black Hole
    2. Gilmore, Alice in Quantumland: An Allegory of Quantum Physics
  2. Atoms

    1. Bishop, chapters 2-4 (Online book by Mark Bishop, An Introduction to Chemistry — Atoms First)
    2. Hewitt, chapter 11; 32-34
    3. Chew, chapter 9, plus Workbook
  3. Light, Waves & Sound

    1. Hewitt, 26-31; 19-21
    2. Chew, chapters 12-15 plus Workbook
    3. Wolfson 40-45
    4. Labs (2)
  4. Theory of Relativity

    1. Hewitt, Ch. 35-36
    2. Wolfson. 46-60
  5. Thermodynamics

    1. Hewitt 12-18
    2. Chew 7-8, 10-11 plus Workbook
    3. Wolfson 19-27
    4. Labs (2)

FIRST SEMESTER FINAL EXAM – open book, you may bring notes

      1. Conceptual Physics: Atoms, Quantum, Relativity
      2. Practical Physics: ThermodynamicsTravel Time
        1. Make sure you are caught up on Chew / Hewitt so you don’t have to bring books
        2. Use time to catch up/get ahead in Wolfson / read Feynman
  1. Electricity / Electromagnetism

    1. Hewitt 22-25
    2. Chew 16-22, plus Workbook
    3. Wolfson, 28-39
    4. Labs (3)
  2. Mechanics

    1. Hewitt 2-10
    2. Chew 1-6, plus Workbook
    3. Wolfson, 3-18
    4. Labs (3)
  3. Review

    1. Feynman, Six Easy Pieces


      1. Review of First Semester
      2. Practical Physics Electricity / Mechanics

* You may bring a single page cheat sheet into exams; you will be expected to work problems to a level consistent with Chew, Chemistry Matters. (GCSE level). You will not be expected to answer trig problems until we have finished Math 2. (So you can expect to see light problems involving trig on the second semester final, but not the first semester final!). You will not be directly tested on material in Wolfson, but it will help clarify your other work, so you should watch it and take notes. You MUST use UNITS in all calculations.

May Big Sci
June Atoms
July Light
Aug Light
Sep Relativity
Oct Thermodynamics
Nov Thermodynamics // Midterm
Dec Wolfson catch up // Khan academy review
Jan Wolfson catch up // Khan academy review
Feb Electricity
Mar Mechanics
April Mechanics // Final

Reading Summary

Reading Requirements:

Please write ½ page (typed or handwritten) summary of Tyson, Gilmore, and Feynman

Hewitt: Take brief notes; read for the big picture. Be sure you understand yellow checkpoint boxes & do and understand the ranking problems.

Chew: Take notes, make flash cards – this is the material that will be tested thoroughly. Do exercises in both textbook and workbook. (You may find it helpful to be a chapter behind in the workbook, in order to use it as review.)

Wolfson: Take Cornell Notes on all lectures, draw sketches, and write summaries. You may use Dec/Jan to catch up. We expect to have internet all that time, so you may watch them online instead of bringing DVDs.