Buy that special someone an AP Physics prep book, now with 180 five-minute quizzes aligned with the exam: 5 Steps to a 5 AP Physics 1

Visit Burrito Girl's handmade ceramics shop, The Muddy Rabbit: Yarn bowls, tea sets, dinner ware...

10 September 2012

Graph paper link, and setting up a graph for conceptual physics

Above picture from
free online graph paper
Wednesday is our first day of class.  New students arrived here on Sunday, so we're in the midst of two days of orientation and partying.*  I've spent the past week making final preparations for teaching 9th grade conceptual physics -- no wonder I haven't posted much.

*Unfortunately, the skee-ball machine is delayed, so probably won't be at my house for my advisee group's get-together tonight.  I'll have to use it for physics classes, instead.

In the first class session, we will set up a mirror and ray box.  Students will take turns using a protractor to measure angles of incidence and reflection.  Each student will make a graph of angle of incidence on the horizontal, and angle of reflection on the vertical.  The point here is to establish context for reflection and refraction, and to be sure we all know how to use a protractor before the first true laboratory exercise on refraction.

In a 12th grade course, I'd have students figure out how to scale the graph.  Dealing with a range of 0-90 degrees, when the graph paper has seven major ticks and 70 minor ticks on the horizontal axis, is a serious skill that I try to teach, and which takes significant patience and practice.  However, for 9th graders I'm happy if they can plot points accurately at all.

So I've gone to this link for free online graph paper.  This page is particularly nice because you can choose from common templates (e.g. 1 inch major with 1/10 inch minor gridlines), OR you can customize the weight of the line, number of lines per inch, etc.

For that first class session, I can bring the class to understand that we need to scale each axis from 0-90 degrees.  Making that scale will be easy as pi, because I've printed out customized paper that has nine major gridlines across the page, and five minor gridlines per major gridline.  The class can see quickly that each major line will represent 10 degrees, so each minor line will represent two degrees.  And the graph will take up the whole page.


1 comment:

  1. Hi there. I'm teaching primarily 9th grade physics, as well, so I'll be interested to read about how you adapt and present your curriculum. As far as graphing goes in my classroom, I actually de-emphesize all the technicalities of graphs like scales, legends, keys, etc, and just tell kids to sketch the general trend of the graph and be able to explain why it looks the way it does. I find that graphing is one of the most universally disliked activities, and that by giving them permission to slack on the nit-picky parts of it I'm able to keep them excited about the physics...