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Gil

What is the reason behind the US science sequence?

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What's the reasons for the traditional US Science sequence of Earth science, Biology, Chemistry, Physics?

 

I am going to guess that it's rooted in math, but that's just a guess. Is there any other reason why this sequence became "standardized"?

 

If math isn't an issue, then could you study these subjects in any order that you wanted?

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At my high school, only the dumb kids took Earth Science. The smart kids did Biology, Chemistry, AP Biology, Physics. Chemistry had an algebra 2 co-requisite and physics had a calculus co-requisite.

 

Many schools today have now gone to "physics first" using a Conceptual Physics test. The sequence goes physics, chemistry, biology (regular or AP), then AP Chemistry or AP Physics.

 

ETA: I just checked my alma mater's current handbook and the sequence now is: Physics, Biology (regular or AP), Chemistry (regular or AP), AP Physics or Anatomy & Physiology.

Edited by Crimson Wife

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At my high school, only the dumb kids took Earth Science. The smart kids did Biology, Chemistry, AP Biology, Physics. Chemistry had an algebra 2 co-requisite and physics had a calculus co-requisite.

Okay, but do you know what was the reason for the sequence of biology -> chemistry -->physics?

 

 

Many schools today have now gone to "physics first" using a Conceptual Physics test. The sequence goes physics, chemistry, biology (regular or AP), then AP Chemistry or AP Physics.

 

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Gil, the chemistry class required algebra 2 and the physics class required calculus. The soonest a student could take algebra 2 was in 10th and the soonest a student could take calculus was 12th.

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The reason is the lack of math. Because algebra is taught so late, 9th grade students cannot take anything but biology.

 

From a systematic point of view, physics first and bio last makes the most sense: physics is the basis of all science; chemistry is basically an application of physics; modern biology uses a lot of biochemistry,

 

Edited by regentrude
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Gil, the chemistry class required algebra 2 and the physics class required calculus. The soonest a student could take algebra 2 was in 10th and the soonest a student could take calculus was 12th.

 

 

Ok, I just want to make sure that there isn't any reason other than math requirements.

 

I'm not a scientist so there could have been a subtle but important reason/benefit to this sequence that I miss or don't get.

 

Before I buck "tradition: so to speak and go my own way, I want to make sure that I'm not about to make a ill informed decision.

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The reason is the lack of math. Because algebra is taught so late, 9th grade students cannot take anything but biology.

 

From a systematic point of view, physics first and bio last makes the most sense: physics is the basis of all science; chemistry is basically an application of physics; modern biology uses a lot of biochemistry,

Thanks for chiming in. I'm glad to hear that. I don't have much confidence in science so I have had to do research.

 

If math isn't an obstacle, is it fair to say that a persons is free to do essentially any of the sciences that they want to?

 

ETA: ALSO What's the oldest physics text book that you'd say is "safe" to use and still get a decent foundation? Could you use a book from the 70s?

Edited by Gil

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Thanks for chiming in. I'm glad to hear that. I don't have much confidence in science so I have had to do research.

 

If math isn't an obstacle, is it fair to say that a persons is free to do essentially any of the sciences that they want to?

 

ETA: ALSO What's the oldest physics text book that you'd say is "safe" to use and still get a decent foundation? Could you use a book from the 70s?

Yes, do whatever science you want.

Books for intro physics can be from the 70s, Newton and Maxwell have been dead for a long time, and the new textbooks do not actually contribute new concepts, just more colored boxes and unnecessary pictures.

But if you are interested in a newer text, I can find and send you one if you just reimburse me the shipping.

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Earth Science (high school, Regent's Level or better) is one where you will want an older textbook, from the 50s or 60s.  The older texts cover concepts that have now been dropped due to lack of thinking skills, lack of knowing how to read a graph or table,  lack of middle school chemistry, and the general dumb down of full inclusion.  You will also want a newer textbook to cover the recent discoveries, as a jump off for doing more in depth reading.  And you'll want to grab some applets off the internet, the Earth Science teachers have a couple of very good ones available to illustrate such things as moon position around earth position. Field trips helpful too.

 

Regent's Bio here is gen ed 8th grade now.  It is a waste of time..students that have good study skills and reading skills go directly to honors level and a few self-study the couple of extra chapters and take the AP exam.  

 

In my area, the sequence for top students is now:

 

Honors Bio - 8th

Honors Earth Science - 9th

AP Chem 10th 

Regent's Physics 11th (school refuses to offer Honors or AP section)

12th is AP Bio if they didn't self study and take exam earlier OR DE whatever student wants or online class - its pay to play here. students generally pick either AP Physics or self study AP Enviro.

 

keep in mind there are no other challenging classes in my district aside from AP English, so they do have the time available to study and make up for not having the reg ed chem after 7th grade honors physical science/intro to chem.  More affluent schools will have the students preparing for Science Fairs, Physics or Math competitions etc.

 

 

 

 

Edited by Heigh Ho

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Gil, my ds did this order:

 

9  Physics

10 AP Physics (equivalent as we are in NZ)

11 AP Chemistry (equivalent)

12 Organic Chemistry (1/2 class)

12 Quantitative Biology and Biostatistics

 

So far the Universities seem to like it, and the organic chemistry was noted on by more than 1 interviewer.

 

Ruth in NZ

 

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At my high school, only the dumb kids took Earth Science. The smart kids did Biology, Chemistry, AP Biology, Physics. Chemistry had an algebra 2 co-requisite and physics had a calculus co-requisite.

 

Many schools today have now gone to "physics first" using a Conceptual Physics test. The sequence goes physics, chemistry, biology (regular or AP), then AP Chemistry or AP Physics.

 

ETA: I just checked my alma mater's current handbook and the sequence now is: Physics, Biology (regular or AP), Chemistry (regular or AP), AP Physics or Anatomy & Physiology.

CW: FWIW, I doubt it was a whole bunch of "dumb kids" taking Earth Science.  I am hoping you just meant that maybe that was the unfortunate assumption by some, not that you actually believe all students who took Earth Science in your school were "dumb".  I also hope you are not implying that any student who finds an interest in Earth Science and would like to take that as their 9th grade Science is dumb.

 

Gil: Since math requirements don't seem to be an issue for your situation I agree with others, do whatever sequence makes the most sense to you and yours.  There are tons of resources out there.  

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Yes, do whatever science you want.

So, since it's okay to do so, we'll do physics first because:

1) We already own the resources needed

2) I think they'll enjoy it more as we've heard it can be very math-like,

3) I have time to get the head start that I need because of #1.

4) The Hives' scientists seem to agree it is possibly superior to the Bio -> Chem -> Physics track that is widely used in PS.

 

But if you are interested in a newer text, I can find and send you one if you just reimburse me the shipping.

Thank you, very much. That's so generous of you, but I already have (more than) a few physics textbooks that I've picked up over the years. I try really hard to not be one of those people who gathers and keeps way more stuff than they could ever rightfully use, though I'm dangerously close to that for physics already.

 

I recently got rid of a 9th edition of Hallidays Fundamentals of Physics, Physics Demystified and 2 supplement study books for University Physics and an earlier edition of Fundamentals of Physics but I have elected to keep my

I feel that each of these texts offers something that I feel is useful to the physics course that I want to build for my kids particular needs

and I'm determined to cap it there because If I can't build and teach a decent course in physics out of those 3 books, then odds are that more text books probably won't help me, you know?

 

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CW: FWIW, I doubt it was a whole bunch of "dumb kids" taking Earth Science.  I am hoping you just meant that maybe that was the unfortunate assumption by some, not that you actually believe all students who took Earth Science in your school were "dumb".  I also hope you are not implying that any student who finds an interest in Earth Science and would like to take that as their 9th grade Science is dumb.

 

To clarify: I should have said "honors track" vs. "general ed track". To take chemistry in 10th and physics at all required being in honors track math. I suppose an honors track student who was really interested in Earth Science could have used an elective slot to take the class but I never heard of anyone doing so.

 

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Earth Science (high school, Regent's Level or better) is one where you will want an older textbook, from the 50s or 60s.  The older texts cover concepts that have now been dropped due to lack of thinking skills, lack of knowing how to read a graph or table,  lack of middle school chemistry, and the general dumb down of full inclusion.  You will also want a newer textbook to cover the recent discoveries, as a jump off for doing more in depth reading.  And you'll want to grab some applets off the internet, the Earth Science teachers have a couple of very good ones available to illustrate such things as moon position around earth position. Field trips helpful too.

 

Oh, heck no!  Plate Tectonics, which is pretty much THE basis for much of Earth Science (the science underlying volcanoes, earthquakes, hot spots, mid-ocean ridges, continental drift, mountain builiding etc etc etc) was not accepted as standard till sometime in the 60's (believe it or not), as that's when the scientific tools were available to measure the forces that proved the theory, and I'd bet like with most things, the textbooks lagged a bit after that.  I would never use an Earth Science book that old!

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Especially since your boys aren’t high school age yet, do what they want.

 

DD has done, formally and Informally (all using high school, college and grad level textbooks, and mostly with outside mentors with PhD’s)

 

Herpetology (including multiple sub-topics, some via audited graduate classes)

Entomology

General biology

Freshwater biology

Microbiology

ACS Chemistry in the Community (conceptual Chem that includes a lot of bio and organic, but light math)

Conceptual Physics

Physical chemistry

Earth/Space Science

Environmental Science

 

Of those, if DD graduates early and needs them. I would give her a credit for biology with lab, Chemistry with lab, and maybe Environmental Scjence, and leave the special interests to the essay and resume. If she stays at home the next four years, she’ll likely use college classes for her high school credits.

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Oh, heck no!  Plate Tectonics, which is pretty much THE basis for much of Earth Science (the science underlying volcanoes, earthquakes, hot spots, mid-ocean ridges, continental drift, mountain builiding etc etc etc) was not accepted as standard till sometime in the 60's (believe it or not), as that's when the scientific tools were available to measure the forces that proved the theory, and I'd bet like with most things, the textbooks lagged a bit after that.  I would never use an Earth Science book that old!

 

I'm not suggesting he go cover to cover, just the info that is currently relevant and omitted in the new texts.  

Unfortunately the newer texts leave out many many details that were covered in the older texts, especially those that require math.

And since he has time, his lads may actually enjoy seeing how certain topics have evolved over the years.

We'll have to disagree about the value of older knowledge.  On my end, my dc have found it handy in understanding some of the older poetry, and of course the world views of people in the time period.

Edited by Heigh Ho

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Here is something that Art Robinson wrote about science instruction in high school (and the lower grades too).  The short answer is that the reason for the order is the math. 

 

https://www.robinsoncurriculum.com/view/rc/s31p1015.htm

 

Disclaimer: Robinson is considered to be a bit of a wingnut in certain circles.  

Edited by EKS

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Here is something that Art Robinson wrote about science instruction in high school (and the lower grades too).  The short answer is that the reason for the order is the math. 

 

https://www.robinsoncurriculum.com/view/rc/s31p1015.htm

 

Disclaimer: Robinson is considered to be a bit of a wingnut in certain circles.  

 

I agree with much of what he says, but this is nonsense:

 

It is absolutely possible to learn a lot of physics without calculus. It is not "pretending" and "artificial problems" - a lot of physics can be understood and applied without knowing the details of the theoretical derivations.

For example, you can discuss projectile motion if you define velocity as a change in position per time and acceleration as a change in velocity per time, without having the concept of the derivative. It is harder to teach, and at some point you have to skip some steps in the derivations, but you can absolutely understand the essentials. Newton's laws do not require the concept of calculus if you look at the motion of objects that have constant mass. Resistor circuits can be analyzed with just algebra.

 

He might as well make the argument that a true understanding of physics is not possible without mastery of partial differential equations - because there are things you cannot treat without this tool. And there's more physics that requires abstract algebra and whatnot.

 

None of this is a reason NOT to teach a conceptual or algebra based physics class. 

 

ETA: Physics is full of approximations and models. What is "truth"? The point mass is a model. There are no massless ropes, no frictionless surfaces, no absence of air resistance. Celestial bodies are not perfectly spherical and uniform, and working in the classical limit for small speeds and neglecting relativistic effects is an approximation. All of these can be very valid if applied appropriately.

Edited by regentrude
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Earth Science (high school, Regent's Level or better) is one where you will want an older textbook, from the 50s or 60s.  The older texts cover concepts that have now been dropped due to lack of thinking skills, lack of knowing how to read a graph or table,  lack of middle school chemistry, and the general dumb down of full inclusion.  

 

 

Couldn't you just use a college text instead then? (Honest question, since I know basically zilch about US high school/college earth science instruction today or in the 50s.)

 

When I was in high school, we had biology, chemistry, and physics every year. We started bio in 7th grade, I don't remember if physics started in 7th or 8th, and chemistry started in 9th grade. Earth science was part of geography, which started in 7th grade, but which wasn't required after 9th grade (and I skipped 9th grade, so the last time I had geography was 8th grade, because I could not fit it into my schedule past that). Btw, not all those sciences were required all throughout high school either, or at least not to the degree I took them, but I was in the nature & science stream, so, yeah... science. 

 

Now, doing 3 sciences every year would probably create transcript hell - just thought I'd mention that there's no particular reason you'd have to do one science per year - I think most years in high school I had 3 hours* of bio, 3 hours of physics, and 2-3 hours of chemistry per week, iirc (and 4-5 hours of integrated math, while we're talking about subjects that don't necessarily need to follow the standard US sequence... all subjects combined probably something like 32-35 hours/week, iirc).

 

*50 min.

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my dd's high school science sequence:

 

9th: ap chemistry

10th: ap bio

11th: ap physics c

12th:  I forget, maybe light and heat?   

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As much as I really like the idea of integrated science (and math) through high school, I lack the expertise, budget, shelf space and patience to pull it off. Fortunately, no body here wants to be a scientist when they grow up.

 

 

Now that I'm taking a closer look at the books that I have trying to figure out my attack plan, I may wind up getting a different conceptual physics textbook after all.

I think that I want a conceptual physics text that mirrors my Walker text a little more closely.

 

I'm thinking that I'll need to shift Physics for People Who Think They Don't Like Physics to the reading-shelf for this year.

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Couldn't you just use a college text instead then? (Honest question, since I know basically zilch about US high school/college earth science instruction today or in the 50s.)

 

When I was in high school, we had biology, chemistry, and physics every year. We started bio in 7th grade, I don't remember if physics started in 7th or 8th, and chemistry started in 9th grade. Earth science was part of geography, which started in 7th grade, but which wasn't required after 9th grade (and I skipped 9th grade, so the last time I had geography was 8th grade, because I could not fit it into my schedule past that). Btw, not all those sciences were required all throughout high school either, or at least not to the degree I took them, but I was in the nature & science stream, so, yeah... science.

 

Now, doing 3 sciences every year would probably create transcript hell - just thought I'd mention that there's no particular reason you'd have to do one science per year - I think most years in high school I had 3 hours* of bio, 3 hours of physics, and 2-3 hours of chemistry per week, iirc (and 4-5 hours of integrated math, while we're talking about subjects that don't necessarily need to follow the standard US sequence... all subjects combined probably something like 32-35 hours/week, iirc).

 

*50 min.

Well, I'm from Canada... when I was in high school (grades 10-12 in my province) you chose your science. There was a couple of integrated science courses for those taking science just to meet min diploma requirements. But university-bound students could take Biology or Chemistry or Physics EACH year. a 1/2 year course for grade 10 and 11 level courses, and a year long course for grade 12 level courses.

 

I was in the International Baccalauriate Program, so at our school that meant I needed to take Biology, including an extra one in grade 10, and Chemistry, including an extra one in grade 11. I planned to become an Engineer, so that meant I needed Physics. The E on the courses meant an IB course.

 

So, in grade 10 I had

 

Biology 10E

Biology 15E

Chemistry 10E

Physics 10

Physics 20 (I took the grade 11 course in grade 10)

 

Grade 11 I had

 

Biology 20E

Chemistry 20E

Chemistry 25E

Physics 30

 

Grade 12 I had

 

Biology 30E

Chemistry 30E

And I took 2 drafting courses in grade 12....

 

So, using a standard credit system (not the system my province used) that would be 7 science credits in 3 years...

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My basic plan for applied subjects that I don't know well enough to teach on my is to slowly do 2 solid introductory texts: 1st a text that's big picture & conceptual, then a text that's technical & applied. We'll let it take as long as it takes.

 

We'll work through the texts simultaneously, studying and learning the material from the conceptual side first, then covering it in the book that focuses on how apply it. But in order for this plan to work I need 2 compatible texts. This is easier in some subjects than others so if any of you can make a suggestion for me, I'd be really appreciative..

 

Physics

Conceptual: ???? | My plan was Physics for People Who Think They Don't Like Physics but I don't think it's as compatible with Walker as I'd hoped.

Applied text: Physics (and the study guide) 2nd edition by Walker

My local book shop has copies of How Things Work: The Physics of Everyday Life and from the table of contents it seems a better fit for Walkers, so I'm thinking we'll use that. But is there another book for physics that might complement the Walker text better?

 

Now as far as I can tell, Walker is a pretty standard STEM majors physics text.

I chose it over the other texts because the page layout was a little better in my opinion, the included study guide gives us the extra examples to learn from as well as guidance on what to focus on, it was cheaper than some of the other options and finally, my kids liked its cover better.

 

Yes, we do judge textbooks by their covers :laugh:

 

Chemistry

Conceptual: A Conceptual Introduction to Chemistry by Bauer, Birk and Marks 

Applied text: Chemistry: A Molecular Approach revised edition by Tro 

 

Biology

Conceptual: The Way Life Works by Hoagland

Applied text: Biology 7th edition by Campbell and Reese 

 

We'll use just a single text for

Anatomy and Physiology

Anatomy and Physiology: Unity of Form and Function 6th edition by Kenneth Saladin 

 

Earth

Whatever is on the bookstore shelf at the time

 

Space

Whatever is on the bookstore shelf at the time

Edited by Gil

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Chemistry

Conceptual: A Conceptual Introduction to Chemistry by Bauer, Birk and Marks 

Applied text: Chemistry: A Molecular Approach revised edition by Tro 

 

 

I'm currently teaching out of the Tro book for the Advanced Chem course I teach at the local college.  It's a massive book and there are chapters in it that wouldn't be covered even in a typical first year university chem course.  Not to say that you couldn't teach the whole thing, if you wanted to. :)  If your kids aren't interested in STEM careers, though, I think it might be overkill to work through that text in a high school setting.  If your students aren't going into STEM, the conceptual text is probably enough.  I took a look at the TOC and covering the entire book would give your students a good, solid Reg Chem course (with a bit of Honors Chem thrown in).  You know your kids best, though. :)

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