paul le

The Problem with Physics Education

Physics is the study of nature. It is a dynamic and exciting subject, full of many mysteries and intriguing ideas.

Yet for many people, the word “physics” conjures up images of teachers lecturing to sleepy students in a classroom, and of having to write exams in a hall full of hundreds of other students who would rather be doing something else. Many people view physics as being a difficult and boring subject.

Something is wrong here.

A big part of this is how physics is taught in school. To a large extent, physics is the study of motion. So why is it that students are learning from static drawings and diagrams on blackboards and in textbooks most of the time? Although some teachers try to incorporate labs or demonstrations into their lessons, this is usually an afterthought.

Trying to imagine how complicated phenomena behave by reading words in a book or looking at static drawings on a blackboard results in many students struggling to understand what is even going on, to no real fault of their own. This causes a snowball effect, where students not only find physics difficult to understand, but they lose interest because only a small fraction of the beauty of physics is shown to them. They abandon learning, and never look back for the rest of their lives.

These are big problems.

Fortunately, with the prevalence of computers in recent times, I believe there is a solution to this. Drawings and diagrams no longer have to be static. Explanations of complicated phenomena can now be demonstrated through interactive and dynamic visualizations and simulations done on personal computers. Students can have the opportunity to play around with ideas and concepts in real time, develop an intuition for how complicated systems work, and truly understand what they are learning.

This is my goal for Physics in Motion. I aim to create dynamics lessons that allow students to learn physics the way it was meant to be taught: through motion.

August 6th, 2019