Overview of the Course
This course was inspired by (and its development supported by) the Introductory University Physics Project (1987-1995).It and supporting text and instructor's materials have been designed to be consistent with the three guiding principles articulated by the IUPP Steering Committee early in the project:
In addition to these principles, the design of Six Ideas is based on two additional principles:
The ultimate point of all of these principles is to help professors develop introductory physics courses that practically and effectively help students develop powerful physical reasoning skills. For more discussion of this issue, see the Problems and Goals section of the Online Preface.
The Six Ideas course is divided into six modules or units , each focused on a single idea that has been crucial in the development of physics since the 1600s. The exploration of each idea provides the "storyline" for the unit, directing and focusing students' study of physics. The six units are:
Each unit is a separate paperback volume that retails for about $30. You can also order all six volumes as a bundle (ISBN 0-07-256482-2) for about $140. The order given above is the nominal order in which the units should be presented: however, other orders are possible.
These units can be taught to fairly well-prepared students in two semesters (three units per semester) or in three quarters (two units per quarter). The pace of the course can be reduced either by teaching it in three semesters (or four quarters), by cutting parts of unit Q , or by cutting entire units. These options (and the rationale for ordering the units this way) are discussed more fully in the Instructor's Manual.
Note how contemporary physics topics are built into the course structure. To make space for these topics, the time spent on some classical topics (such as fluid mechanics, the details of rotational dynamics, AC circuits, and ray optics) has been greatly reduced. However, the text makes room for the contemporary topics mostly by very tightly focusing on the topics that are discussed, thus avoiding tangents that waste time and act as sources of "conceptual noise" that divert students' attention from the important issues.
Six Ideas That Shaped Physics is much more than just an textbook that rearranges the topics of physics. Research performed during the last two decades has illuminated both the kinds of difficulties that students have learning physics and methods that help students learn more effectively. The Six Ideas text has a number of features designed (with the results of this educational research in mind) to help students develop a robust and flexible understanding of the ideas.
One of my most important goals for the Six Ideas text was make it easier for students to depend on the text (instead of in-class lectures) as their primary source of information. This is necessary if instructors are to have time to do the kind of active-learning activities that educational research has shown to be important for developing students' understanding of the ideas. The textbook therefore consciously uses a number of techniques to make the text more useful as the primary source of information. These techniques include a more expansive and conversational writing style than is usually the case in physics textbooks as well as a variety of tools that support students in becoming "active readers."
In addition, I have provided a number of aids designed to help students keep the "big picture" in view, recognize and learn technical terms, and more easily review the important issues in each chapter. The homework problems are deliberately designed so that students are goaded to (and rewarded for) thinking physically instead of performing rote operations. Finally, the textbook provides direct support for various kinds of active-learning exercises that are useful both inside and outside the class.
The text does not include answers to problems to give instructors the maximum flexibility in assigning problems. Short answers (as well as complete solutions) are available in the instructor's manual. Instructors are encouraged to make answers to either odd-numbered or even-numbered problems available to students.
For more detailed information about the features of the text, see the Online Preface as well as the Information for Students section in each printed volume.
There are a variety of computer programs available on this web site that support the text in a number of ways. Some of these programs (Newton, SchroSolver, StatMech, MBoltz, EBoltz, and Equilib) are explicitly described in the second edition of the text. These programs help students study realistic applications where the mathematics would be too difficult to do by hand. However, in all cases, these programs simply automate calculations that students are taught to do by hand. These programs therefore simply extend their abilities rather than being black boxes.
Past experience does suggest that students earn the material more effectively if they use the programs both in class and in homework.
All of the programs are freeware, and may be downloaded from the Computer Programs page and may be freely distributed. Versions are available for both the Macintosh and Windows platforms. Source code is also available on that page.
The IUPP testing process made it clear that it is not straightforward to transfer even a successful course from one institution to another: many things about the course have to be adjusted and adapted to fit the new context. Building on more than a decade of experience teaching Six Ideas at Pomona College and other institutions, we have designed the Instructor's Manual for the Six Ideas course to help instructors create successful adaptations of Six Ideas that fit their contexts. The resulting instructor's manual is much more comprehensive than the instructor's manuals that come with typical texts. In addition to exploring the unusual features of the course and carefully explaining the logic behind them, the instructor's manual provides information and advice about
The fourth item is particularly important, because early trials indicated that it is possible for a Six Ideas course to fail if one uses a traditional approach to assigning and grading homework. There are a wide range of possible "right" ways to treat homework, though; the instructor's manual discusses these approaches in some detail.
Short answers and full solutions to problems and sample exams and quizzes are available online through the password-protected instructor's web site.
The Online Preface discusses in more depth what one can find in the instructors manual, which is available online in PDF format.If you ar an instructor using the text, you can alternatively request a hard copy of the Instructor's Manual using this McGraw-Hill site or by contacting your local sales representative. (However, the online materials will be more up-to-date and are available instantly.)