I am trying out a new technique for test and exam review this year with my AP Physics students.  They all have a year of honors physics behind them, so reviewing concepts is mostly a waste of time.  They know the material pretty well, and right now are just struggling with fitting it all together.  (Knowing when they can and cannot use COE, how to break down a complex problem into smaller parts, etc.)  I have had a lot of requests from students to just tell them the steps they will need to go through to solve some of the problems.  And while that sounds like a lot of fun (ahem) I am not convinced it will be worthwhile.  I want them to get used to working through problems that they have never seen before and to learn how to use their understanding instead of a scripted procedure to solve problems.

So I am trying two different techniques for test “reviews”.

First, goal-less problems.  They are awesome.  And sooo easy to create.  Just take an AP problem (or any problem for that matter) and remove the question.  Then we can discuss what we can(or cannot)  solve for and how to solve for each unknown.  (There are usually lots and lots of possibilities.)

Second, (and this is what I am doing this week) I want them to solve “real” problems.  So I will find a video on youtube, an video of Angry Birds, etc. and have them analyze the physics.  (This is again similar to a goal-less problem, but a little more fun.)  On Monday, we will be looking at a video of the blue Angry Birds (the ones that split into 3 birds in the air) to figure out what exactly is happening.  Is momentum conserved?  Energy?  Why?  Are they on Earth?  In order to speed up the process I went ahead and loaded the video into Tracker and printed out the x and y position and velocity graphs.  Yes, I realize that ideally they could do this themselves, but for the purpose of a test review I want to spend the time actually looking at the physics instead of learning how to use the software.  It should still be a challenge for them to figure out what parts of the graphs are relevant and how to use them for momentum and energy problems (this is not something we have specifically done yet.)  Hopefully practicing with a fairly open-ended and less structured problem will make them more comfortable when they see an unfamiliar problem that lists all of the information they need and tells them specifically what questions they need to answer.