Most science courses save physics for the end of high school, but John Mays argues (among other things) that there are essential physics concepts like heat transfer, energy, etc. which must be learned prior to studying chemistry and biology, and that therefore students should at least begin physics study first. He lays out his full argument here, citing data, logic, and personal experience as he makes his case. Those with any concerns should read this article carefully.
Introductory Physics, then, is intended primarily for 9th graders currently working their way through Algebra I. If your students aren't the math and science types, and don't fancy a STEM career, this is the last they'll have to face physics; if they're math whizzes and look forward to exciting careers designing roads and heating systems, then they'll revisit the subject as seniors in Physics: Modeling Nature which builds on the trigonometry they've already learned and the calculus they're currently learning. (This chart helps explain the different tracks.)
This isn't your typical physics textbook. Introductory Physics is slim (under 400 pages), clearly written, and visually attractive, with full-color illustrations throughout that portray the figures and events of science as well as its principles. Mays's approach involves revealing the concepts of science organically within their historical context. For instance, he doesn't just talk about thermodynamics in bullet point fashion; he covers the ideas that preceded Newton's, how Newton arrived at his ideas, and how subsequent science improved on them.
There is a lot of math, and it is challenging, but students taking Algebra I while working through Introductory Science should find themselves capable of completing each problem. Each chapter includes exercise sets with answers, and there are lab experiments to be completed throughout at the instructor's discretion. Overall, students are guided toward mastery rather than simply learning to be tested, so it is important that students apply themselves, but the rewards are significant.
This is not an upper-level physics course. It is an introductory course for all students, and as such is slightly "easier" than Mays's advanced and accelerated physics courses. However, it is a real physics course, and it really will provide your student with a legitimate science credit and a solid foundation for further study. One of the benefits of this text is that it doesn't read like a typical science textbook, and therefore stands a real chance of igniting a love of science study in your students.
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