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Connecting force and energy

October 16, 2012

Throughout the last chapter, my classes have been continually revising a hypothesis connecting the concepts of force and energy. After the first activity on forces, I asked the class to complete the sentence, “Exerting a force on an object…” by saying something about energy. After some discussion, they came up with “Exerting a force on an object transfers (mechanical?) energy to the object.” They were unsure whether or not other forms of energy could be transfered so we decided to write mechanical in parentheses with a question mark.

We revisited this hypothesis several times after doing activities on forces that oppose an object’s motion, scenarios with multiple forces, and friction. In the first two instances we revised the hypothesis to incorporate our new ideas. For friction, we used our hypothesis to guide our discussion about whether to consider friction a force and if so how to define the direction of the force.

I’m really happy with how this worked. Revisiting the hypothesis fit easily into our discussions and helped to emphasize a common thread from activity to activity. I also like stating the hypothesis in terms of energy (rather than directly in terms of changes in speed) to help provide coherence between Chapter 1 (energy) and Chapter 2 (forces).

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