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Julieofsardis

My dd has decided she wants to be a physicist!!!! Help!

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Okay, I would consider my dd non-academic. She is very well rounded, athletic, and social. She is in the 9th grade and only in Algebra I. I have told her that in order to major in physics, she will need to step it up and complete more than one math and science in a year. She says she's willing to do this. However, at this point, it's like pulling teeth to get her to do what I consider a minimum amount of work. I was gearing up for her to go into some sort of art related thing -- not physics.

 

What do I do??? Do I help her buckle down and spend all her time trying to catch up, or do I gently try to guide her in a different direction? I know the advice I get will be all over the board. I'm really hoping for more been there done that kind of advice.

 

She says she wants to discover time travel and break the light barrier. LOL She is not a head in the clouds dreamer. She's never had a big imagination, so she is dead serious about this. I know it can't hurt to get as far ahead as possible and then if she realizes it's not for her, that would still be okay. I guess I just don't want her missing out on other things to try to accomplish this goal, and then realize it wasn't something she could do.

 

Oh, and I'm no math whiz either. My dad is an engineer and very smart, but he's not available in this venture. So, I'm scared I'm not capable of really helping her to reach her potential. I'm not even sure what level of math she will need and I wasn't even planning to include physics in the line up of sciences.

 

Okay, I'm done rambling. If you've read this far, just help me get my head wrapped around this.

 

Julie

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One of my brothers has a Ph.D. in Physics and teaches it at a Canadian university (what Americans call a 4 year college.) The first time he made the honour role was in the 5th year of his honours B.Sc. He played sports, was very social (okay, still is), couldn't spell worth a darn, etc. He's funny, makes a great emcee, etc. Not your usual physics geek, but a physics geek nonetheless. Good enough to get a top notch post-doc even.

 

In Canada, at least in most of the provinces, you don't take Calculus until university, so her being in Algebra 1 is okay. What I highly recommend is to have her take a Conceptual Physics first, then take a mathy Physics. T his way she'll see if she likes it and get a solid understanding of the concepts before tackling the math. In fact, when I asked my db if he thought it a good course for a wannabe math major, he said yes and mailed me his sample copy (so dd is going to do the college level one.)

 

Physics is a special kind of thinking, and one does not have to appear to be academic to have that kind of brain, as evidenced my my brother (who is a fabulous person, btw, and his gift is in teaching--he's inspired students to major in Physics before, but I had to learn that from my mother since he's rather modest.) If she takes Conceptual Physics and finds she doesn't like it, that's okay, too, because she's still only in grade 9 and has lots of time to change her mind. Since math is such an integral part of Physics, I'd be sure she really gets math rather than rush her along at the moment. Let her double up later if necessary.

 

Yes, there are many people here who don't agree with me and who want every Physics course to have math with it, but some dc will be able to do all the math and never truly understand the concepts.

 

This is what my dd is doing for high school science as of now (she's also in grade 9).

 

Grade 9 Conceptual Chemistry

Grade 10 Conceptual Physics

Grade 10 or 11 Biology

Grade 11 AP (or AP level with the exam) science in Chem or Physics

Grade 12 AP (or AP level with the exam) science in Chem or Physics

 

NB we're doing most subjects as semester courses, not all year.

 

The last 2 years may change somewhat as she sometimes claims she might major in math instead of science. There are those who argue, with much logic, I might add, that it's better to do the order Physics, Chem, Biology.

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My husband is a physicist. What prompted this interest in physics? Has she been reading/ studying it recently? It's not usually a desire to come out of nowhere.

 

That said, I'm not inclined to take a 9th grader's professed career as set in stone. But a sound science and math background is a great thing.

 

I think the main goal would be to get through calculus, with a solid understanding. Learning about physics is great, and should be done, but without the calculus, it's pretty pointless. I'd take it one math class at a time and just aim for solid conceptual understanding of the math.

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See, both of you told me something different, but both were helpful.

 

The interest in the subject has come from her physical science class that she is taking at co-op. I think the teacher is great and inspiring, although dd has only achieved a "C" in the class, the teacher says she truly feels that she understands what she is learning.

 

I'd love to hear from others who've had some experience with a student turn around in the academic department.

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I would simply plan a solid high school curriculum for a college bound student. To me that means putting the student in the position to major in Engineering or English. I want my students to have options and make the decision based on their interest when they enter college, not on the fact that they didn't take the right courses in high school. So...

 

I'd plan on 4 science courses. I think the idea by the previous poster to take both Conceptual Physics and a more math based Physics is a good one.

 

I'd plan on 4 solid math courses. I would not suddenly step of your pace and try to get in calculus. Better to be solid on the basics, so she can be solid when she takes calculus. If at the time of hs graduation she is still considering a science major she may want to take a calculus course at the cc in the summer before heading to university. If she aces the course AND the cc has a phenomenal reputation she may consider moving to the next level of math and transfering the credit. Otherwise, I'd take the calculus again the university. Calculus is basics for a physics major so she needs to be solid in that.

 

While you are planning her high school classes, round out the science and math with history, English, art and a foreign language. She'll have a complete education and if the science thing isn't of interest in 3 years she'll have the foundation to go in another direction. (Plus, she'll be comfortable in math/sci so she'll have no trouble getting through the gen ed requirements at her chosen university).

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My dad was one of the top in the world in his narrow of physics, and he went to a great books college and then blossomed in graduate school. I ended up somewhat following in his footsteps after a side trail as an economics major.

 

So you really never know. Keep up the math. That will help whatever direction she chooses.

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I'd also include a number of living books on physics topics.

 

Some of Taz's favorite authors are:

Richard Feynman

Lee Smolin

Brian Greene

Michio Kaku

Robert Penrose

Stephen Hawkins

Einstein

Carl Sagon

Lisa Randall

 

DVDs:

The Elegant Universe (Nova)

Einstein's Relativity & the Quantum Revolution (TTC)

Particle Physics for Nonphysicists (TTC)

Steve Hawkin's Universe

Pretty much all of the TTC astronomy & physics sets

 

Taz owns too many to count Science Channel, PBS, and Nova DVDs on various physics topics.

 

Taz's major is physics with a minor in philosophy. He plans to get his MS & Ph.D. in a physics field dealing with String Theory, Quantum physics, and something else with M or D in the description.

 

Taz always stated he wanted to take only physics classes since 7th grade when he took a course through EPGY. Seven years later, he's still taking courses in physics--lol.

 

If your dd's passion is physics, surround her with every aspect of the subject via history, literature, art, dance, and music. Each of the aforementioned subjects all contain some aspect of physics from Aristotle, to Da Vincci, to ballet, to vibrations and sound waves of music.

 

Do searches on the following:

 

Physics in art

Physics of music

Physics of dance

physics & philosophy

Ancient Greek physics

Ancient Astronomy

Aristotle

Archimedes

Hipparchus

Ptolemy

Galileo

Copernicus

 

And so on. . .

 

TWTM lists a number of texts in the rhetoric physics section.

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Oh, Wow! Thanks guys for the advice and thanks Carmen for the list of resources.

 

I guess this just took me by surprise. I know you are right about just taking her as far as she can go and wait and see.

 

Thanks again!

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My kids are younger than yours, so I have no BTDT advice, but I wanted to share a great resource I found that might be fun to add to the mix - Thinking Physics. It's not a course, but a really fun book to read and think about physics concepts.

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I would look at colleges that your daughter might be interested in and work backwards from their admissions requirements. Then I would plan a solid high school program for her with those requirements in mind. Even if she doesn't take calculus in high school, she can still major in physics in college--she just has to take in in college. In fact, some colleges prefer students to take calculus in college and will even make kids who have taken it in high school take it over.

 

It seems to me if she does 4 years of math and 4 years of science, she should be fine. The only reason she would need to double up on anything would be to do calculus in high school or to do AP science courses that have the high school science as a prerequisite.

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Oh, Wow! Thanks guys for the advice and thanks Carmen for the list of resources.

 

I guess this just took me by surprise. I know you are right about just taking her as far as she can go and wait and see.

 

Thanks again!

 

 

Another thought. You do need calculus to do Physics, but how can you know if she'll have that kind of brain now? I don't think you can at this point, or if you can, I'm not sure how. I know someone who is into Analytical Chemistry (as a professional) who barely squeaked by in math. He got a D+ in Calculus, but doesn't need that for Chem. He's very bright, not just that way. His eldest dd, however, got a 5 on AP Calculus and is a sophomore majoring in math.

 

But I'm not sure if she has to like everything Physics now. GVA mentioned that her dad was at the top of his narrow niche in Physics. That's how Physics is. My db had a postdoc with the top guy in his narrow field of physics, which was just one aspect of low temp physics. Now he only teaches (and does something in lieu of research so he can be at a university) and can never be a full professor because of it, but this way he has time for his wife and 4 dc. He made that choice because he was well over 30 and hadn't made his big discovery. In Physics, you usually make that by 30, although there are exceptions. Naturally you have to start off in college learning about a lot more Physics topics; my db had to refresh himself on that stuff after finishing his postdoc when he had to start teaching first year Physics.

 

Is your dd 14? Getting many 14 yo's to work is like pulling teeth! Mine, too. But when it comes to subjects she likes, she'll read things on her own, so that list of books Carmen posted could be a great start.

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today. I don't usually check these boards until the weekend.

 

My oldest ds also wants to be a physics major. He'll still be in Alg. I when we begin 9th grade. He won't be able to go to any of the top physics schools (MIT, etc.) but I'm pretty sure he'll make it into Florida State.

 

I love the post that says it's like pulling teeth to get a 14 yo. to work! Last night I was thinking about posting that my ds had lost his passion for math and science. He only wants to read and play video games or chess.

Maybe some of the books and videos listed will motivate him again.

 

We will do Conceptual Physics for 9th, then Biology, Chem. outsourced to cc, and either cc or AP Physics. I also emphasize writing, which he hates.

 

Indulge your dd and see where it takes her. Even if she changes her mind later, a strong math and science background won't hurt her.

 

Denise

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today. I don't usually check these boards until the weekend.

 

My oldest ds also wants to be a physics major. He'll still be in Alg. I when we begin 9th grade. He won't be able to go to any of the top physics schools (MIT, etc.) but I'm pretty sure he'll make it into Florida State.

 

 

Indulge your dd and see where it takes her. Even if she changes her mind later, a strong math and science background won't hurt her.

 

Denise

 

My db did all of his Phsyics degrees in Canada, and still got that fabulous post doc in the States. Not everyone who is top in their specific Physics field is at top physics schools, nor is my db who teaches Physics so students actually understand. He even had one of my other db's who didn't finish high school saying that the Physics lecture he heard nearly made him want to go back to school (and that's saying a LOT!) Top school aren't necessarily the best places to really learn since undergraduates are often in the way (not sure if that applies to Physics or not, but I learned it when frantically studying to see if we really could homeschool high school). That said, they are great places for research and may be just the thing for grad school. You need degreeS to really get into most Physics fields that I am personally aware of. Of course, I just learned that mathematicians make more money on Yahoo today. Mathematicians are in the top 10 highest paying jobs for new college grads. Perhaps I'm not so crazy to semi-secretly wish one of my dc would pursue math.

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You don't even need concurrent enrollment.

 

High school physics is approachable with standard high school math.

 

Concurrent or prerequisite calculus is necessary for AP physics, though.

 

I have a chemical engineering degree. I never liked math, but I could use it as a tool. Having said that, I don't really remember trig all that well, and I got OK rather than steller grades in math.

 

The math knowledge that really served me well in science and engineering classes was the ability to look at an equation and see what it implied in real life. So, for instance, PV=nRT implies that if pressure goes up, volume must go down, because all things being equal the product of the two of them is constant. If pressure goes up but volume stays the same, then temperature or amount must have risen. Stuff like that. Yes, it's important to be able to make those calculations, but it is far more important to be able to look at formulae and quickly figure out their implications. (It's the same for calculus as for algebra.) You also have to notice patterns in data fairly quickly, without relying on a regression program. So, for instance, do those data line up in a credible straight line? Are they going to be best represented as an exponential curve? As a sine wave? And if so, what is the underlying physical mechanism that would make that a good model for those data?

 

So I would not really worry too much about her math skills, as long as she really understands the material. If she can apply her math properly, it is a lot more important than being able to do calculations. The fact is, in taking algebra she is really just starting to transition from arithmetic to actual math. You don't really know how good she will be at math yet. All these years you have just been laying the groundwork.

 

There are a lot of practical things she can do with a physical science background, since she understands it so well. I think it's exciting that she wants to do this!

 

One final thought--do you want her to be well-rounded? I have always loved to read, but the reason I majored in engineering is that I wanted to be well-rounded. I knew that I would always read on my own, but didn't think that I would learn engineering or science without taking classes.

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I'd also include a number of living books on physics topics.

 

...

 

Great list, Carmen!

 

 

 

... I'm not inclined to take a 9th grader's professed career as set in stone. But a sound science and math background is a great thing.

 

 

 

Indulge your dd and see where it takes her. Even if she changes her mind later, a strong math and science background won't hurt her.

 

 

I agree with Terabith and FrogMom that your daughter may well change her mind between now and graduation. (I remember that my daughter was intent on pursuing art as a 9th grader; now she's in her first year of college intending to major in Latin and possibly minor in Geology!) A well rounded education with an emphasis on math and science sounds like a great plan.

 

Regards,

Kareni

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I really appreciate all the input. I will definitely look at the resources recommended. It always amazes me how much of a resource this board is to me. You ladies are awesome!!!!!

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I'm confused about what's required for the AP physics. Saxon says it's physics prepares you sufficiently for the AP test. They do not list Calculus as a requirement for their course. They recommend having done at least half of the Advanced Math book or having completed the whole book, but nothing more. I think I'll google a bit on AP physics and post what I find. :)

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I was a physics major before switching to engineering. (with 20/20 hindsight, that was a silly move, the switch)

 

Of my high school class (catholic all girls schools), two out of 28 went into physics. I was considered academic, the other girl was very social, and passing her classes honorably, but nothing special. Well, the other girl works at CERN in Switzerland. Big big thing!

 

As for me, I have zero mechanical mind. I just don't get mechanics. I never did. (why did I ever think I would be a good engineer??) However, I totally ACED sub-atomic physics. And relativity. The more abstract it was the better I was. In McGill, we start with mechanics. Professors saw me struggle and wrote me off. But once we got to relativity, (the last 1/3 of the session) I took everyone by surprise. At that point, the professors started taking me seriously.

 

The only reason I'm telling you this is that it does take all kinds of minds in Physics. There's a section of Physics that might very well be completely suited to your daughter.

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Here's what I got off a college forum:

 

Math Background summary

 

Physics B: you should have and understanding of basic trigonometry relations and math up to Pre-calc. The trig is necessary through out Physics B (dynamics, optics, electricity etc.) and the Pre-calc is necessary due to the amount of calculations you'll have to do.

 

Physics C: the math requirements are the same as those for Physics B plus more! The breadth of topics covered in Physics C is less than in B but with C you get a greater understanding of Physics because you learn it with calculus. So the "more" part is the calculus. In terms of how much calculus you should know: an understanding of how derivatives and integrals are computed should suffice. *Also the conceptual understanding of integration as an accumulation process (not just as an area) is necessary in more advanced sections.

 

The two sections (Mechanics and E&M) do differ a little in the mathematical requirements. Mechanics uses Calculus but to a far lesser extent than E&M. My sister took the AP Physics C: Mechanics exam last year WITHOUT having taken a class in calculus and managed to get a 4. This feat would be near impossible with the E&M exam because the most important concepts (Maxwell's Equations) are most efficiently stated through calculus.

 

And here's what the college boards has to say about Physics B:

 

Physics B

 

 

Download the Course Description (.pdf/1.2MB).

Complete course and exam information is available in the Course Description.

Requires Adobe Reader (latest version recommended).

This course provides a systematic introduction to the main principles of physics and emphasizes the development of conceptual understanding and problem-solving ability using algebra and trigonometry, but rarely calculus. In most colleges, this is a one-year terminal course including a laboratory component and is not the usual preparation for more advanced physics and engineering courses. However, the B course provides a foundation in physics for students in the life sciences, premedicine, and some applied sciences, as well as other fields not directly related to science.

 

 

So B can be done without calculus, and C requires calculus. :)

 

 

B is good ... :lol:

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I'm confused about what's required for the AP physics. Saxon says it's physics prepares you sufficiently for the AP test. They do not list Calculus as a requirement for their course. They recommend having done at least half of the Advanced Math book or having completed the whole book' date=' but nothing more. I think I'll google a bit on AP physics and post what I find. :)[/quote']

 

There are two AP Physics tests.

 

Physics B does not require Calculus while the Physics C (actually 2 tests) does.

 

Physics B

This course provides a systematic introduction to the main principles of physics and emphasizes the development of conceptual understanding and problem-solving ability using algebra and trigonometry, but rarely calculus. In most colleges, this is a one-year terminal course including a laboratory component and is not the usual preparation for more advanced physics and engineering courses. However, the B course provides a foundation in physics for students in the life sciences, premedicine, and some applied sciences, as well as other fields not directly related to science.

 

Physics C

This course ordinarily forms the first part of the college sequence that serves as the foundation in physics for students majoring in the physical sciences or engineering. The sequence is parallel to or preceded by mathematics courses that include calculus. Methods of calculus are used wherever appropriate in formulating physical principles and in applying them to physical problems. The sequence is more intensive and analytic than that in the B course. Strong emphasis is placed on solving a variety of challenging problems, some requiring calculus. The subject matter of the C course is principally mechanics and electricity and magnetism, with approximately equal emphasis on these two areas. The C course is the first part of a sequence which in college is sometimes a very intensive one-year course but often extends over one and one-half to two years, with a laboratory component.

 

Carole

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I was a physics major before switching to engineering. (with 20/20 hindsight, that was a silly move, the switch)

 

Of my high school class (catholic all girls schools), two out of 28 went into physics. I was considered academic, the other girl was very social, and passing her classes honorably, but nothing special. Well, the other girl works at CERN in Switzerland. Big big thing!

 

As for me, I have zero mechanical mind. I just don't get mechanics. I never did. (why did I ever think I would be a good engineer??) However, I totally ACED sub-atomic physics. And relativity. The more abstract it was the better I was. In McGill, we start with mechanics. Professors saw me struggle and wrote me off. But once we got to relativity, (the last 1/3 of the session) I took everyone by surprise. At that point, the professors started taking me seriously.

 

 

The only reason I'm telling you this is that it does take all kinds of minds in Physics. There's a section of Physics that might very well be completely suited to your daughter.

 

I didn't get mechanics either. And E&M is still one big, annoying mystery to me. But, thermodynamics makes beautiful, lovely sense. And quantum mechanics was the goal that made it worth it to slog through 4 prior quarters of physics torture. There are many kinds of physics minds, as you say. Writing off a prospective physics student for not doing well with mechanics is as silly as writing off a prospective higher math student for not enjoying 4 function calculations. Mechanics is not physics, any more than arithmetic is math.

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