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06 May 2013

Book Review: Gigante's UPCO Regents Physics Review

I first met Kris Gigante in person at the 2012 USIYPT.  We had made contact online, and he took me up on my offer to serve on the physics fight juries.  Kris enjoyed the tournament so much that he brought his own team last year, coming one point short of winning the Clifford Swartz Trophy.

So Kris knows his business as a physicist, and as a physics teacher.  When he told me he was writing a Regents review book, I agreed to review it for my site.  That's the disclosure.

Kris's book is outstanding.  It's standard in some ways: For example, he includes a content review chapter for each topic on the Regents exam; some practice items at the end of each content chapter; and then a few of the authentic open-source Regents exams at the end of the book.  The content review is well written and to the point, as is ideal for a review book.*  The standard material is quite good, and not that much different from other available review books.

*Or any book.  Why the #&$@ don't publishers give us textbooks our students can read and use, but instead decide to cram as much tangential crapola as ed professors and state curriculum directors and marketers can possibly demand?  Oy.

Where Kris's book stands out is in a couple of unusual and extremely helpful nuggets.  

At the beginning, he asks, "How well do you know your physics course?"  Then he asks 75 questions that I would consider "fundamentals" of physics.  For example...

If an object has a positive velocity and a negative acceleration, describe the motion of the object.  

Name seven kinds of EM waves in order of increasing wavelength.  

What quantity stays constant in a series circuit?  In a parallel [circuit]?

These questions -- questions that you as a teacher can use verbatim for your fundamentals quizzes -- go on and on for four pages of dense text.  What a treasure for a student.  It's the perfect diagnostic, to decide where to focus studying; it's also a perfect last minute review tool, to remind oneself of some facts to know.

Then in the back are fact lists in a similar style to the "just the facts" posts that have been so popular.    Each unit includes 1-2 pages of facts to know, along with a blank checkbox.  I get it: once the student knows the fact, he checks the box.  Then over the course of the year, the checkboxes slowly fill in, and voila, he's ready for the exam.

Certainly this book is perfect for a Regents student.  But also for any teacher of general level physics, it's worth grabbing a copy.  If you teach Regents, use the fact lists as a guide to preparing tests, lessons, or exam review.  If you don't teach Regents, the fact lists are still a useful guide.  Check the boxes yourself to record which facts you expect your own students to know.  Then you can find Regents problems that test these facts, and put them on your own in-class tests.  


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