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07 October 2011

Activity for the "fifth day" of class

Screenshot from Angry Birds on Google Chrome
Because I've been teaching "Honors Physics" this year*, I have been trying to run on a four-day teaching schedule:  Three days of what you'd call a standard class (quizzes, quantitative demonstrations, and discussion), and a day of experimental work in laboratory, each week.  The fifth day -- Friday or Saturday* -- is held in reserve.

* Honors Physics is intended to foreshadow the future AP Physics I course.  It is college level, algebra based, covering about 60% of the AP Physics B curriculum.

** Two of my honors sections meet on Friday for the last class of the week; another meets on Saturday instead of Friday.  Yes, I do teach on Saturday.

I intend to give a fundamentals quiz each week on the fifth day.  The rest of class I plan at the last minute.  Perhaps the lab took longer than I expected -- we can finish up.  Maybe we need to practice a two-body problem that I don't have time to assign for homework.  Point is, I can do anything I want, because the pace of the course assumes that we don't truly NEED that fifth class.

I suppose this "fifth class" approach is my own politically correct response to the fact that we miss so many Friday and Saturday classes due to special events and athletic trips -- for example, when the football team has to leave for an away game, my class is cut nearly in half***  .  Rather than complain, I make it so students WANT to be in class on Friday or Saturday, and they truly are a bit sad to miss; but also so that no one is truly at a major disadvantage because of a legitimately missed class.  If they just make up the fundamentals quiz, they will be right back with me on Monday.

*** Yes, 22 of my 49 Honors Physics students are on the varsity football team.

In today's enrichment class, I divided the class into pairs randomly, and gave each pair the screenshot from Angry Birds that is shown at the top of the post.  I showed the class this youtube video, which acts out a "live action" version of Angry Birds.  I asked each pair to answer, and justify their answers to, this set of questions:

How tall is an Angry Bird?
How tall is a piggy?
How tall is the tower?
Is the video reasonable?

One of the AP Physics readers -- I forget who, since my iPad lost my notes from un-professional night last summer -- suggested the idea of determining g on the Angry Birds world using frame-by-frame video analysis and a size estimate of the birds.  I thought it would be fun to go the other way... we'll assume g = 10 m/s^2, and figure out the size of the stuff on the screen.  My answer in tomorrow's post.

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