Do students connect inclined-plane problems to real experiences?

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Episode 403: Pinewood derby Western Washington University

Introductory physics courses often spend a lot of time analyzing situations that are rather removed from everyday experience, such as inclined-plane problems. What do students make of the physics they learn in these specialized scenarios?

January 28, 2022

Pedagogy Content
Physics Content
STEM-wide audiences

Lesson Contents (5 MB)Student Handout
Transcript, discussion questions, and problem

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

(1 MB)General Facilitator's Guide
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(463 MB)Video
Captioned video


Sample Discussion Prompts

  1. What did you notice in this episode? Talk to your neighbor about what you noticed.
  2. Introductory physics courses often spend a lot of time on inclined-plane problems, both in kinematics and dynamics, both in lecture and in lab. What is your sense of why these problems are popular with introductory physics course designers? Do you think they are equally popular with students? Why or why not?
  3. Some people find that the first several minutes of this conversation is not very interesting to listen to. If you agree, what makes it relatively unexciting for you?
  4. The pinewood derby is an event run as part of the Boy Scouts of America in which participants build unpowered wooden cars from kits, then race them. How does Andy’s pinewood derby experience relate to the physics question they are answering?
  5. Connecting to real-life experiences is important not only for engagement, but also for understanding the physics concepts. What are some other real-life experiences that might illustrate concepts relevant to this lab?
  6. What does this episode suggest about whether and when students connect inclined-plane problems to real-life experiences?

Collections featuring this lesson

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