Introduction to the Series: Essays in Physics and Science Teaching
In the last 15 years of my teaching career, I have been involved with teaching Physics for 11 to 18 yr olds as well as supporting new physics teachers in developing different ways of understanding how to teach physics. I have observed countless hours of science teaching (and of other subjects) and spent hours watching videos on physics teaching and have used a number of textbooks throughout my teaching career.
Conversations with most physics teachers I have met and supported, mechanics seem to be a topic of contention, especially, how to teach it. Almost all textbooks I have used in my teaching and/or used for reference begin their topic of mechanics either by explaining vectors and scalars, or by teaching rectilinear motion and its equations for speed, velocity and acceleration and respective graphs. So, it seems that right at the start of students’ academic life in school, we are introducing them to what are, arguably, rather complicated equations and graphs, without really knowing whether they have the mathematical understanding to support this learning.