New Release: The Ultimate Regents Physics Question and Answer Book

So last year I took every single question from the last 17 NY Regents Physics exams, organized them by topic, and printed them neatly into worksheet / workbook formats for myself and others to use.  They’ve been pretty popular, but have also been a fairly high maintenance item, as I have been receiving at least 10-15 e-mails per week about the worksheets.  Some requests have come from teachers asking if I have created an answer sheet to go with them.  Other requests have been from students looking to check their answers.  Some have even been from students posing as instructors attempting to find the answers to the worksheets.  But far and away, the most popular question has centered around whether I might offer a print version of the worksheets.

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It’s taken awhile, but I’ve finally cleaned up all the sheets, arranged them into a workbook format, solved every single problem, added answer sheets, and sent them off for publication.  The result — yesterday, The Ultimate Regents Physics Question and Answer Book was released.

I’m planning on leaving the individual worksheets available for download on the APlusPhysics site — the book is merely provided as a convenience for those who’d rather have a hard copy, bound compendium of all the worksheets, with the answers included.  Because these sheets are also popular as homework assignments, quizzes, etc., I don’t plan on posting the answer sheets publicly… that’s just making things a little too easy for students hoping to avoid productive work.  The list price on the book is $11.99, which (typically) Amazon discounts within a few weeks of publication.  I think that’s a reasonable price for a resource that took me many, many hours to compile, with the goal of hopefully recouping the costs required to publish the book within a year or so if all goes well.

Having said that, last night I received a troubling e-mail.  Before even one copy had sold, I received a request asking if I would donate copies of the workbook to cover an entire physics course at a school.  Now, I understand there’s no harm in asking, so I politely responded that the cost for any donated/promotional copies come directly out of the pocket of a high school teacher (me), and that the entire content was already available for download and printing direct from the APlusPhysics website.  The follow-up, however, left me troubled.  The response stated that the copies were for an inner city school and therefore computers and Internet access to download and print the files wasn’t reasonable.

Maybe I’m being naive, but I have trouble believing that there are school districts (and individual schools) that are SO poor that there isn’t a single computer with an Internet connection anywhere in the school.  Or let’s say that there aren’t ANY computers in the school — how can not one teacher have access to a computer and Internet to obtain the files on their own time?  And in what world is it reasonable that I should pick up the costs to print and ship a volume of copies to a school where they can’t find a way to download and print freely available files (which I also pay to host)?

Rant ended.  I’m more than happy to give away a ton of my work (and time) for free, but there are some costs associated with making these resources available.  The software to create the site, the hosting fees, publication costs, licensing costs, etc.  Almost all of the content in the books is already freely available on the site for educational use, and I LOVE when folks make use of these resources.  But, the reality is that all of these things have some cost, and if I want to continue to build a terrific physics resource for our students, a few of the items on the site have to generate enough income to cover the costs of the site.

Now, with that out of the way, I’m excited to be diving into the next project at full speed — review / guide books for the new AP-1 and AP-2 courses.  Background work / development has been going on for over a year, and, if all goes as planned, the first draft should be underway within a couple weeks!!!!!

Regents Physics Exam Prep Resources #physicsed #regents #physics

As we close in on the end of our year in high school physics, I thought it’d be helpful to myself (and perhaps to others) to put together a compendium of some of the best Regents/Honors Physics resources to assist students in preparing for their final exams.  Without further ado, and in no particular order:

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APlusPhysics: Dan Fullerton’s (my) site to assist students and educators specifically around the NY Regents Physics curriculum, which has been expanding and generalizing to curricula outside the state as well.  The Regents Physics section of the site, however, is by far the strongest and most complete.  This site includes online tutorials covering the entire Regents Physics course, interactive quizzes pulling from a database of hundreds of old Regents Physics Exam questions, video tutorials of every major topic covered by the exam, and is also tied in quite closely with the Regents Physics Essentials review book.  In addition, every Regents Physics questions from the past 16 exams has been pulled into worksheets by topic to allow for highly directed practice.

ScienceWithMrNoon: Brendan Noon‘s physics site has a wide variety of great content, including topic-based interactive quizzes and tons of great physics videos.  His course calendar, as well, is loaded with tons of great resources by topic!

St. Mary’s Physics: Tony Mangiacapre‘s site, full of great lessons and interactive simulations across the entire Regents Physics curriculum.  I’m especially fond of the Photoelectric Effect simulation — makes for a great computer-based lab activity!  This site is also closely linked with Tony’s, featuring more than 1300 Regents Physics Exam questions broken down by topic for students to practice, as well as more great videos. The Oswego City School District (with Dr. Tom Altman) has pulled together a strong collection of resources broken into Explanations, Demos, Labs, and Quizzes to assist students and educators in preparing for the Regents Physics exam.

Altman Science: The charismatic Dr. Tom Altman provides real-life demonstrations and explanations of physics concepts in action as part of the High School Physics Project.  Further, he’s broken down a number of old Regents Exams and walked through solutions to each and every question in video format, page by page.  In addition, his laser videos are “wicked cool” as well!

Past Regents Exams: The name says it all — an amazing archive of old Regents Physics exams!

The best review book is the one students will actually use.

Regents Physics Essentials: I’d feel negligent in my feeble attempts at self-marketing if I didn’t point out the Regents Physics Essentials review book I put together at student urging a few years back.  There are a number of great review books to help students get ready for the exam, but this book takes a slightly different twist by providing students a straightforward, clear explanation of the fundamental concepts and more than 500 sample questions with fully-worked out solutions directly integrated in the text.  As stated by my physics teaching cohort in crime at our high school, “the best review book is the one students will actually use,” and this was written to be friendly, fun, and concise.  Plus, if students/teachers want extra problems without solutions given, the worksheets are available free online!  You can check out the book’s free preview on APlusPhysics or use Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature!

SBG Reflections 3/4 Through the School Year #physicsed #SBG #flipclass

What I’ve learned by implementing Skills Based Grading (SBG) in my physics classroom this year…

  1. The skills required for success on the end-of-year state Regents Physics exam are but a small subset of the skills I teach in my class. I had hoped this was the case — every teacher wants to think they teach beyond the minimum requirements of the curriculum, but having it in front of me in black and white reinforced this, and also allowed me to pick a topic or two for a “deep dive,” without fear of shorting the students on material they need to be successful on their final exams.
  2. Students who take the time to “shore up their learning” and reassess in an ongoing manner quickly learn how to learn in my class, and rarely need the opportunities for continued reassessment. After a few weeks of the SBG program, those who “drink the SBG Kool-Aid” learn exactly what they need to study and execute on their assessments, and therefore are better prepared for the initial assessments with no need to undertake reassessments.
  3. Students who slack during the first part of the year and dig themselves a hole have considerably less success in reassessing a multitude of skills later in the year… at this point the SBG system becomes an exercise in grade improvement instead of learning.  Next year, I plan on putting a two-week limit on reassessments to both save my sanity in grading as well as encouraging students to avoid this situation.
  4. Grades hg clrNot all assignments need to be graded. Many of our labs and hands-on projects serve to build understanding, but a full rigorous assessment of these multi-faceted projects is complicated in an SBG system.  After struggling with this the first half of the year, I realized that I could assess these projects based on a single skill, or at times, not at all.  It’s important to keep in mind the ultimate goal is student learning and understanding, NOT grading.  The more I embrace this fundamental change in thinking, the more freedom I enjoy in designing activities to allow students to build their own understanding.  Grades are NOT the goal, learning is.
  5. Automated scoring / feedback systems for exams is a huge timesaver. Last year I invested in Remark OMR software, which allows me to set up exams and have the results automatically scanned and tabulated, providing separate feedback on any number of skills from the same written assessment.  Without spending hours and hours grading, I take the time to set up a quality assessment up front, program the software to give me the information I need, and the actual grading takes minutes.  Further, by taking the time to set up these assessments now, I’m building a library of assessments I can pull off the shelf in the future.
  6. The flipped classroom videos I created to help students who missed class for various reasons provide an excellent introduction to topics. Toward the second half of the year I began assigning students to watch the videos as homework to introduce and / or reinforce the basic problem solving skills required for the topic under study.  Since I began this practice, activities and labs have gone more smoothly, students have become more independent in their problem solving, and the quality of questions and discussion in the classroom has gone up tremendously.  I would surmise that because students feel more comfortable in the “standardized problem solving” after having watched these videos, they feel more open to taking the next step and pushing their understanding to the next level.
  7. Students who didn’t do their work in the old system didn’t do their work in the new system. It shouldn’t have been a surprise, but the SBG system is not a silver bullet.  Regardless of assessments, classroom styles, etc., I can’t force students to learn.  Only by active engagement and hard work is anything worthwhile undertaken successfully, and my physics classroom is no exception.  You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.
  8. My time allotment with students needs more thought. In the words of a colleague of mine, you can take the horse to the water, then hold its head under the water until the liquid soaks through its pours and it ingests the water forcefully.  I’ve tried this brute force method with a few students who I just couldn’t seem to engage this year.  I’ve pulled them in for (in)voluntary extra sessions, hounded them both in class and out, and all but pushed the hand holding the pencil, with mixed success.  In some cases the students have pulled through and improved, but I’m not certain the effort is being focused on the right students.  When I do this, I spend 80% of my time with the bottom of my class — is this really fair to the remainder of the class, those who are engaging and interested?  Further, am I instilling a total hatred of science and physics and school in the students I’m trying to pull along?  This definitely requires more thought.
  9. There is still a place for the “drill and kill” method of problem solving practice. I love inquiry-based activities, and students building their own understanding, utilization of the modeling cycle, but learning how to solve standardized problems quickly and efficiently is also a requirement in our school system, and there really is no substitute for just diving in and practicing.  I’m not advocating this as a “day after day after day” strategy, but without fail, my students’ assessment scores and understanding levels go up when they’ve had the opportunity to work through problem sets and receive feedback on their work.
  10. I am 100% certain I want to continue utilizing SBG in my Regents Physics classes next year. I feel the methodology has clarified our course objectives, reduced student stress, and helped emphasize learning while de-emphasizing grades in our classroom.  Students get detailed feedback on strengths and weaknesses, and those who utilize the system correctly develop individualized learning plans tailored directly to their needs — individualized self-directed differentiation.  Of course, I see many opportunities for improvement in the classroom, things I want to change next year, and items I’m still not sure how to best attack — but implementation of SBG this year has helped both my students and myself, and it has also emphasized my primary goal for students each year: teaching students to be independent learners.

Terrific Regents Physics Resource:

Yes, it’s been awhile since my last post.  We’ve had some family excitement in the recent past, including two difficult losses, but I’m thrilled to most recently have added a baby girl to our family (I’m heading to the hospital to bring mom and baby home today!)  All are well, and we’re so excited and blesses to have such a wonderful addition.


I’ve been long overdue on this post, but wanted to share a great online resource with high school physics teachers.  Anthony Mangiacapre, author of the terrific St. Mary’s Physics Online site, has another winner on his hands.

123Physics is a site that includes more than 1300 multiple choice questions to assist students in preparing for the NY Regents Physics exam (as well as most any algebra-based physics course).  It includes link to the St. Mary’s online physics lessons, Tony’s terrific Youtube video channel, and even a collection of physics clipart.

Most attractive, though, is the set of online review questions.  Tony has set up the site to allow students to take a full Regents exam online (multiple choice questions), with selections from many recent exams (2000s).  Further, you can set up practice quizzes on the following topics:

  • Electricity
  • Energy
  • Mechanics
  • Modern Physics
  • Waves

Upon choosing a main topic, you can select a sub-topic to focus on.  For example, the waves topic is broken up into:

  • EM Waves
  • Index of Refraction
  • Reflection
  • Refraction
  • Sound
  • Wave Characteristics
  • Wave Phenomena

From there, you can choose which type of question to focus on, either general knowledge, reference table, or plug-in types.  This provides students a huge range of quizzes they can create to test their knowledge on any specific topic, or type of problem.  In my experience, students MUCH prefer doing work on the computer compared to hard copy paper — for some reason it just seems to be more fun and/or engaging, and the instant feedback provided allows students to fix their mistakes and work through any issues immediately.

Tony already has a tremendously valuable student resource in his St. Mary’s Physics Online resource, and with the addition and tie-in of 123Physics along with his Youtube videos, Tony has managed to share his terrific resources with not just his students, but with all interested students and educators.