Physics: Modeling Nature is John Mays's physics text for students who love science. If they've followed the Novare program of physics first, then students beginning this book have already completed either Introductory Physics or Accelerated Studies in Physics and Chemistry two or three years earlier. This one is the capstone to their high school science career, and is to be completed during their senior year, after they've studied trigonometry and while they're studying calculus.
As with all Novare science texts, this one treats the story of physics in narrative form, shepherding students toward subject mastery instead of barraging them with facts in a scattershot manner. Each chapter covers a discrete topic in detail (scientific measurement, torque, magnetism, nuclear physics, etc.), presenting the information in a literate style alongside charts, equations, and full-color illustrations that are actually helpful rather than just taking up page space.
Students are enjoined to study hard and be organized, since physics is a demanding discipline and this is a demanding physics course. As mentioned above, students are expected to have completed (and understood!) a course in trigonometry prior to beginning Physics: Modeling Nature as this text draws extensively on trigonometric functions. Calculus isn't directly part of the coursework as students are expected to be taking it concurrently, but Mays does link much of the content to calculus through insets and asides.
The book is intended to prepare students for STEM-based college programs or a technical career. When used in conjunction with Mays's Introductory Physics, Physics: Modeling Nature also provides the content students will need to know in order to take the new Physics 1 and Physics 2 AP exams. The publisher touts this volume as a "solid reference and lecturing tool" for teachers, but this is only true if the teacher has extensive physics knowledge already—otherwise, you'll be in the same boat as your students.
Mays's habit of elaborating in-depth science concepts within their historical context is particularly helpful in this volume for two main reasons. First, seeing how scientific thought developed about particular ideas (and thus following the logic of the whole scientific community over time) helps to demystify complex ideas. Second, it demonstrates to students how the scientific method works in real life, as they watch ideas unfold and develop through the continuous work of scientists and mathematicians over the centuries.
If your students aren't planning to pursue a STEM career (academic or practical), they don't need to complete this text. That's not to say they won't benefit from it, but there's a good chance they won't have the desire, the math background, or even the particular skills necessary to do so. Mays believes that only students who want to or can excel at advanced science should be taught it. If that describes your student, this is a very good text for them to finish off their pre-college science education.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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