Should I choose physics tasks that connect to everyday life?

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Episode 102: Soft bed University of Maryland

In selecting physics tasks for our students, we want to help them recognize that the physics they are learning relates to situations they encounter in everyday life. However, there will often be a question of whose everyday life is positioned as typical. How can we balance the risks and benefits of physics tasks that connect to everyday life?

January 7, 2022

Pedagogy Content
Promoting equity
Physics Content
STEM-wide audiences

Lesson Contents (3 MB)Student Handout
Transcript, discussion questions, and problem

(1 MB)Specific Lesson Guide
Facilitator's guide for this lesson

(1 MB)General Facilitator's Guide
Background and best practices

(12 MB)Video
Captioned video


Sample Discussion Prompts

  1. What struck you about this episode? Talk to the person next to you about what got your attention.
  2. This physics task implicitly defines “comfort” as having to do with forces and surfaces. What definition of comfort is implied by this task?
  3. Students might have other ideas about what makes lying down comfortable, other than the distribution of forces over surfaces. What else might students prioritize in being “comfortable”?
  4. The physics task asserts that ”lying on a soft bed is the most comfortable of all,” but in fact, not everyone considers a soft bed to be the most comfortable. What is your experience?
  5. Some people sleep on soft beds, and some people sleep on hard beds or other surfaces. In this physics task, which of these sleeping preferences is implied to be normal, and which is implied to be unusual?
  6. Do the students in this group relate this physics task to their personal experience? If so, do they seem to have the same preferences that are implied by the task? What observations suggest this to you?
  7. What does this episode suggest are the risks and benefits of physics tasks that connect to everyday life?

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