Online reading assignment: significant figures, unit conversion, dimensional analysis, flipped classroom

Physics 205A, fall semester 2017
Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, CA

Students have a bi-weekly online reading assignment (hosted by SurveyMonkey.com), where they answer questions based on reading their textbook, material covered in previous lectures, opinion questions, and/or asking (anonymous) questions or making (anonymous) comments. Full credit is given for completing the online reading assignment before next week's lecture, regardless if whether their answers are correct/incorrect. Selected results/questions/comments are addressed by the instructor at the start of the following lecture.

The following questions were asked on reading textbook chapters and previewing presentations on significant figures, course policies, unit conversions and dimensional analysis.

Selected/edited responses are given below.

Describe what you understand from the assigned textbook reading or presentation preview. Your description (2-3 sentences) should specifically demonstrate your level of understanding.
"I understand the arithmetic rules of how to calculate significant figures in math problems. It is all pretty self-explanatory once you get the flow chart down in your head."

"Significant figures are important because they provide a standard for how exact a measurement is. Finite measurements like people or the number of oranges in a basket do not use significant figures. For addition and subtraction, pay attention to decimal place on the least exact measurement. For multiplication and division, pay attention to the smallest significant figures."

"When converting to different units (without the mathematical component), one must start with the initial unit. If changing to a different unit, the initial unit needs to be on the bottom (divide by) and the unit that the equation is being converted to needs to be on the top (multiply by). By doing this, the initial units is canceled out by dividing, and you are left with the final unit you multiplied by. This can be applied to problems where the units is being changed more than one time by repeating this process."

"All measurements recorded must include units. You can convert in-between different units using dimensional analysis. Dimensional analysis is used to check mathematical relations for consistency."

Describe what you found confusing from the assigned textbook reading or presentation preview. Your description (2-3 sentences) should specifically identify the concept(s) that you do not understand.
"I am planning on really looking over the significant figures flow chart, because I was taught a completely different way. I cannot quite understand the chart yet but I feel like with a little practice and using it in questions/equations I will fully understand it."

"At first figuring out when you count the digit and when your just go off the decimal points was kind tricky when adding or multiplying, but after clarification and reading, this concept isn't a problem anymore."

"None of the material confuses me outright. Some of the tougher dimensional analysis problems can trip me up though."

"I understand sig figs, but honestly I found the illustrated example of using 3 multiplied by 4 equals 12 confusing. The way it was worded I had to reread the example several times to wrap my mind around the concept."

"I am somewhat confused by the difference between measurements such as inches or cm (in which a decimal answer is possible) and measurements such as population (in which a decimal is not possible). I am concerned about whether it will be obvious when a solution should be in decimal or not depending on the type of measurement."

"I found problems with multiple operations a tad bit more confusing. I think it is because you're having to use multiple rules, and it is a matter of going in order."

"The only thing I found confusing was an example in the presentation saying there was two sig figs when there was only one digit that was not zero. However, I looked closer in the flow chart and saw the 'rule of two' at the bottom that I didn't see before, which cleared that problem for me."

Match the SI (Système International d'Unités) prefixes with their corresponding powers of ten.
(Only correct responses shown.)
centi- (c): 10–2. [100%]
giga- (G): 109. [95%]
kilo- (k): 103. [98%]
mega- (M): 106. [95%]
micro- (µ): 10–6. [98%]
milli- (m): 10–3. [100%]
nano- (n): 10–9. [98%]

Mark the level of your exposure to units and dimensional analysis.
None at all.  * [1]
Slight.  ***** [5]
Some.  *************** [15]
A fair amount.  ************** [14]
A lot.  ****** [6]

Explain what is different about homework in a flipped class.
"Homework in a flipped class should be much easier, because you get much more time to practice material in class and fully understand the contents before you even leave the room, due to double exposure to material."

"Homework in a flipped class is made to prepare for the next class."

"It, in a sense, forces you to read at least some of the book in order to complete the assignment. This takes out educated guesses, without really learning on the homework assignments. It also allows you to learn before you come to class and make better connections during class rather than possibly worse connections after class."

"Students can access lectures and information before the lecture, allowing them to complete homework or practice problems within the scheduled lecture time allowing for increased application of knowledge and the ability to ask questions of the instructor."

"You have more in-class time to work on problems with your peers."

"Homework tends to be done in class with the instructor available for any needed help."

"Homework questions can be asked in class because there is more time because people have read the lectures in advance."

"You learn the lesson at home and then go to class and expand upon that, for further understanding."

Describe where/when most student learning occurs in a flipped class.
"Learning occurs at home and then engaging/clarification is in the classroom to make the subject matter more clear."

"Most learning occurs outside of the classroom rather than inside of the classroom. Outside of class activities prepare you for the next lecture."

"The students read at home but I think they really begin learning in the class."

"It is different for every student."

"With lectures outside of class, individually focused learning takes place in class. Learning takes place both out of class and in class, but in class is where student-led learning takes place."

Pick one piece of student advice from the previous semester, and discuss why you agree (or disagree) with it.
"It does not help to procrastinate. I agree with this because I have done this in the past and it makes me stressed."

"Read the blog prior to lectures, quizzes or exams--I strongly agree with this advice, because it is already very clear that the blog contains all of the advice and content needed to succeed in the class."

"Reading the book before lectures is a piece of advice that resonated with me, as I've found this technique helpful in other classes."

"I agree with the student who said get into a group and study because it helps you get a different perspective on the topic and might be able to get a question answered that you might have while working on the homework. I would add to work in a group with a tutor because if everyone is stumped in the group, it helpful to get some guidance on the problem that has a higher chance of being correct."

"An organized life equals organized grades. The more organized my life and school work are, the better I feel about my productivity."

"I had a hard time circulating between the number of links and material given, but I understand that following the multiple process--lecture, blog reading, feedbacks, textbooks and curiosity--will lead to success in this course."

"'Work through the study problems posted on the blog.' I agree with this because I think it's very helpful for quizzes and exams."

"'Understanding the material and trusting yourself.' This is really important to me because my biggest issue is second-guessing myself after I know the answer."

Ask the instructor an anonymous question, or make a comment. Selected questions/comments may be discussed in class.
"This style of class learning is all new to me. I hope for success. I appreciate all the help I can get."

"Have you always encouraged the flipped classroom setting, and if not, what made you decide to do so?" (I've been in the process of gradually flipping my classes over the past seven years; just trying to break out of lecturing straight through each class, and instead allowing time to let students work on solving problems in class, where I'm readily available to observe them and give appropriate feedback.)

"Can you write reminders of homework due dates and other important test/quiz/assignment due dates on the board during lecture?" (Remembering homework due dates is easy--every midnight before class! Also, the quiz, midterm and Final Exam dates are listed right on the course calendar webpage.)

"Why did you pick the nickname 'P-dog?' I really like it and it makes you more approachable as a professor but I am curious if there is a story behind the nickname." (Long story short: I blame my snarky graduate student teaching assistants at UC-Davis; the students picked it up from them. #streetcred)

"Do you visit Hawaii often?" (At least once a year to visit family. It seems that Hawaii is always on my mind. #alohaaina)

"P-dog! Besides teaching physics, what hobbies or recreational activity do you enjoy? What do you like to do with you free time to handle stress?" (I DJ swing music at the Madonna Inn on Mondays, and Mrs. P-dog and I go on road trips with our converted Subaru: "Slumberjack, the Sleeping Forester." #optoutside)

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