Force, Motion, and Energy (FM&E)
Review by John L. Hubisz, Ph.D., Hubisz@unity.ncsu.edu.
Middle School Physical Science Resource Center
Middle School Physical Science Resource Center is a project of North Carolina State University funded by a grant from the David and Lucille Packard Foundation.
I started reading immediately as many folks have wondered about topics for 8th and 9th grades that were "missing" from Introductory Physical Science by the same authors that we have enthusiastically endorsed. The endorsement continues.
There are seven chapters: Forces; Pressure; Forces Acting in Different Directions; Distance, Time, and Speed; Waves; Heating and Cooling; and Potential Energy and Kinetic Energy. There are also four Appendices: Proportionality; Graphing; Conversion of Units; and Histograms.
Despite the fact that there are so many authors, the writing as a whole does not suffer. There are none of the distractions that interfere with the narrative found in many of the commonly used books at this level. There is no wasted space showing how this material meets some set of standards - it will! There is no space wasted discussing careers that might not even exist when these children graduate, but children who take a course with these two books will be well- prepared for future science courses and even if they choose not to take other science courses, they will have an excellent understanding of the scientific approach.
Not too serious, but I would prefer recognizing that "force" is a vector quantity, and not using the phrase, "force vector," a redundancy. For a first course, I would like to see expressions such as "distance covered," "distance traveled," "time taken," and so on rather than simply "distance" and "time" in formulas as students quickly take on the bad habit of forgetting that all measurements are not made from some zero value. Lastly, in a more positive vein, I would like to see a 15-cm ruler and compass introduced with the study of vectors to ensure a solid kinesthetic experience with vectors.
The authors have avoided a familiar problem by using "thermal energy" rather than "heat" as a noun. There are several good suggestions for themes to be written, especially concerning common words that have a special meaning in physics. The notion of "calibration," often ignored, is very well handled. The number of questions and problems is just right. A chart, probably accompanying the Teacher's Guide, presents several options for a course sequence with and without Introductory Physical Science.
The laboratory items called for (motion detector and associated software being the most expensive) do not require a heavy expenditure of funds as the materials can be used in several ways.
I strongly recommend this book as well as its companion for a full year course at the 8th or 9th grade level.