Just a Little AP-1 Essentials Venting

Still having folks attempting to use the AP Physics 1 Essentials book as a primary text instead of the “read this at home as an intro so you’re prepared to go deeper in class” tool it was intended as. I wish I could put a disclaimer on the Amazon.com “Buy” button so folks would read the description before purchasing.

I hate seeing disappointed readers and reading negative reviews, especially when I realize that these are students and teachers counting on support in their studies. And of course I realize you can’t please everyone. But I also don’t want to create the “standard”-type review book.

These are the books I’d want to use (and do use) with my students, where the book is designed to provide the “essential” background knowledge so that students can walk into class having read and understood enough to begin exploring the concepts in a much deeper fashion through activities, discourse, debate, and deeper thinking questions. AP Physics 1 Essentials is supposed to be the “flipped classroom” version of a review book, and in the same style as the flipped class videos available on the APlusPhysics site. It’s not supposed to compete with Greg Jacobs’ amazing work with his 5 Steps to a 5 series (which I HIGHLY recommend), where he does a great job with a book that is part “here’s what you need to know” and part “here’s how to ace the test.” And it’s certainly not designed to take on the Barron’s Review Series. They already do a great job with a deep overview of the entire course — it would be ludicrous to try to outdo such excellent work.

Instead, AP Physics 1 Essentials is supposed to be an alternate path, a different kind of resource. The kind of book you give a student who is struggling to help them ferret out the simple basic relationships, and begin to take them further. But it’s not meant to be used in isolation, and it certainly isn’t meant to be a “do it yourself at home” guide to the entire AP Physics 1 exam.

As the AP-2 book nears completion, I’m worried I’ve taken some of the negative reviews to heart and made portions of it too complex. I need to keep in mind what this book is designed for, and what it isn’t. It isn’t meant to be all things to all people, and despite the occasional negative review, I think it’s important to stay true to its aim. I want it to cover the essential concepts of the course in as straightforward a manner as I can manage, keep it light and fun, and provide some very basic sample problems (with solutions RIGHT THERE in the text) so students can test their understanding as they go. The goal again is to provide a resource that will allow the instructor more in-class time to develop the deeper understanding and problem solving skills necessary for success in AP-2, NOT try to accomplish this all in a little review book. I’ll again look into including an appendix of more AP-2 style problems, but I don’t want that to become the focus (one of the reasons why all the appendix problems are placed in the public domain and freely available outside the context of the book).

I guess I just needed to vent a little in a friendly place and give myself some “writing” therapy. I can’t say enough about the tremendous support I receive from so much of the physics teaching community, and I need to continue to focus on the positives. It was students who got me started on flipping the classroom and creating the videos, teachers in the community who convinced me to put it together into a book, and the great feedback and requests from teachers and students alike that keep me plugging away on these projects such as the AP-2 book (and then a long list of video lessons to get back to).

The bottom line is I switched careers and became a teacher because I enjoyed it, it was fun. I started work on the videos, books, and website because it helped students, and I enjoyed it. I’ve continued working on these resources due to the amazing feedback and support, and because it’s fun. Now I need to kick myself in the rear end and remind myself that there’s not a thing I can do about the folks who are expecting the book to be something it’s not. These books and videos aren’t going to make themselves, and it’s supposed to be fun, so it’s time for me to quit whining and get back to work.

Make it a great day!

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