AP Physics 1 Essentials — What it Is, What it Isn’t

Yesterday I received a review on Amazon for the AP1 book that was, at best, scathing. Please allow me a moment to first state that the reviewer is correct in his statement that the book doesn’t contain many of the high level, conceptual, reading-intensive questions that are found on the AP1 practice exams. I agree, as that is not the book’s intent. We have college level texts all over the place that do a MUCH better job as a primary source and going into detail. They are much bigger, are much more expensive, and are backed by much larger companies. I think the reviewer, however, missed the point of the book.

The AP1 Physics Essentials book is designed to be a guide book that students will actually read, starting from basic principles and building fundamental concepts with simple examples (many from past NY Regents Physics Exams) and then building upon those examples to intermediate level problems, which are demonstrated in detail. The goal is to allow students to build these “essentials” so that they can get a better foundation in concepts and basic applications independently (as, of course, reading is primarily an independent activity).

The AP-1 style exam problems, however, are considerably different. They focus on considerably more complex problems, are challenging to read and interpret what is being asked, tie multiple concepts together in unique and novel applications… a style of learning that is extremely difficult to accomplish independently and passively. Research has shown again and again that this type of understanding requires active learning activities, inquiry-based labs, guided analysis, discussion, and group problem solving. All of which are impossible to accomplish within a book, which is why the AP1 book doesn’t even try. It is meant as a supplement to assist with building the foundational skills so students are better prepared for the active learning experiences which will build those skills so necessary for success in the course.

In truth, the AP-1 book is the book I would want to use with my students. It is the book that I could send them home with to read a few pages, coupled with the video mini-lessons, so that we can use our valuable class time more productively in those active-learning experiences. It is not meant to be a textbook replacement, or a 320-page miracle for those taking the AP-1 exam without external preparation.

I also believe that having an AP-1 style problem set would be valuable to teachers and students, as very few AP-1 style problems have been released for use in classrooms (likely because the sample exam was JUST released to instructors). Over the summer I’ll be working with other physics instructors to build up a set of public domain AP-1 style problems which we will make available to instructors and students. I can also foresee incorporating these into a future edition of the AP-1 book (perhaps as end-of-chapter problems) to provide further resources to students and instructors as we learn more about the actual AP-1 course.

To summarize, though, I hate to see customers disappointed in APlusPhysics products, especially when the customer misses the intent of the product. I’m hoping this post clarifies the intent of the book, and I have also updated the book descriptions on Amazon and the iBooks store to call this out even more clearly and (hopefully) alleviate such potential disappointment in customers in the future.

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