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

Physics 205A, fall semester 2018
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.
"After reading through your notes and the flowchart a few more times, I understood a little bit more how to count significant figures. I will need a bit more practice on my own and in class but I will get it."

"It seemed that after reviewing the presentation twice I seem to understand the concept of finding the significant figure much easier."

"Are we given the flow chart for quizzes/tests? If not, then the flowchart is meh. But, I had to relearn scientific notation also. I'd rather it be taught/reviewed in-depth instead of a test/surveys on day one. Backwards."

"From the presentations I really understood the idea that for exact numbers significant figures don't matter, in this case it's very similar to how one can classify quantities of objects, for example for 12 dogs you wouldn't say 12.0 dogs you would say 12 dogs since is an exact and can only be measured as 12 dogs. When talking about non-exact it makes sense as well since there is an estimated portion that is usually determined by the type of increment."

"One thing that really stuck out to me in the reading was the concept of addition/subtraction significant figures vs. multiplication/division significant figure. With addition and subtraction you only care about decimals, and with multiplication and division you care about the least number of significant figures."

"When I first attended the class and you were explaining the different methods to use when doing significant figures and how to multiple and add them, I was confused for basically the entire class. But upon arriving home and reviewing the lecture notes and readings, I have a much better understanding of how significant figures are important for determining the number of significant figures when multiplying and dividing and decimal places are important for determining significant figures when adding and subtracting."

"When it comes to significant figures, I feel like I understand them pretty well. I learned a really good trick in high school about the presence or absence of the decimal point. If there is a decimal point is present, approach from the 'Pacific' (left) side of the number and start counting from the first non-zero digit. If the decimal point is absent, approach from the 'Atlantic' (right) side of the number and do the same. I tend to use that rule the most, unless the number is in scientific notation."

"When you are converting between units you can follow 4 easy steps. First, write down all units. Second, treat all units as algebraic quantities. Divide and eliminate units algebraically. Third, use conversion factors found on the inside of the front cover. Lastly, check to see if your calculations are correct by verifying that the units combine algebraically to give the desired unit for the answer."

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.
"The main thing that confused me right off the bat was finding the slides and everything on the course website. Once I started to understand though, everything was pretty straightforward and easy through this assignment."

"Remembering the difference between the addition/subtraction and multiplication/division rules."

"The most trouble I had was converting from one unit to the other and making sure the units cancelled each other out."

"Something I definitely see people getting mixed up on is that of the prefixes since information that involves memorization is usually very difficult, that and the multiplication significant figure rules since you have to keep remembering to not do sig figs until all calculations are done."

"For a second I found the '3 × 4 = 12' problem confusing just because you have to know where those numbers came from first before knowing how many significant figures it has."

"One thing I didn't understand from the presentation was the idea of an exact number having an infinite number of sig figs. I'm not sure what this means."

"I didn't understand how a numerical factor of 1/2 would not have any dimensions."

Match the SI (Système International d'Unités) prefixes with their corresponding powers of ten.
(Only correct responses shown.)
centi- (c): 10–2. [86%]
giga- (G): 109. [82%]
kilo- (k): 103. [86%]
mega- (M): 106. [78%]
micro- (µ): 10–6. [82%]
milli- (m): 10–3. [82%]
nano- (n): 10–9. [94%]

Mark the level of your exposure to units and dimensional analysis.
None at all.  ** [2]
Slight.  ************ [12]
Some.  ************ [12]
A fair amount.  ***************** [17]
A lot.  ******* [7]

Explain what is different about homework in a flipped class.
"Homework is really reading the lecture presentation slides in advance, along with a little of the normal homework."

"You have a much better understanding because you got to apply what you know in class instead of listening to lecture."

"The difference between homework in a flipped class is that because you can access the lecture before class starts. You clear up anything you are confused about with your teacher in class so hw should be less difficult to do and comprehend. Your homework time is basically spending more time on concepts that you did not fully grasp in lecture."

"In a flipped class you are not going home and having to do problems on your own for the first time. During class you are able to work on problems and expand on the lecture that you watched before class and therefore can get help."

"The flipped classroom combines pre-reading of the class lecture notes and power-point leaving class time for discussion and direct help through the class.This means when you get home you have a better understanding and knowledgeable of the subject."

Describe where/when most student learning occurs in a flipped class.
"Most of the student learning happens outside of class in a flipped class situation. Since the students have access to the coming lecture and materials needed they can review the material on their own time and come to class with any questions or clarifications needed."

"The most amount of student learning comes when they're in class, because they're able to do more hands on work with the teacher!"

"In a flipped class, I think most students' learning occurs both in and out of class. It really does help when a professor has a pre-lecture presentation that allows students to prepare and try to understand the lecture before heading into class."

"Most learning occurs before and after class when students are reviewing lecture material and answering problems, but also in class when they are doing work and getting their questions answered in class by the instructor."

"In the flipped class the notes are read and understood before class so that during class you can spend the time listening to what the professor has to say, rather than scribbling down a bunch of notes."

Pick one piece of student advice from the previous semester, and discuss why you agree (or disagree) with it.
"'P-dog's class is helpful in that way because you have enough cushion to where you can actually try to learn the material and you can fail a quiz or two and learn from your mistakes for the midterm.' I agree that the ability to fail a couple of quizes or homework allows us to learn from our mistakes because we won't have the stress of an 'F' making us shut down on learning."

"'Don't do the homework at the last minute, and try to understand the material before coming to class. Do the problems and take good notes.' I agree with this because when trying to understand the material before class, you may or may not understand all or any of it, but if you do understand, you only have to worry about asking questions on the little stuff that you did not understand."

"'To succeed in this course you need to participate. Come to class, learn as much as you can and don't worry so much about how you're doing in the class or what your exact grade is.' I feel that this is a great piece of advice given here to learn all that you can and try your hardest and don't worry about your grades."

"'Don't miss class.' I accidentally missed the first day and I feel a little behind. Hoping to catch up fast. Totally agree not to miss anymore class."

"'Do not hesitate to ask tutor for help.' I agree with this because I know many people want to ask for help, but they feel ashamed or are too shy to ask. Tutors are there for a reason, to help students succeed."

"'To succeed in this course, make sure you read, attend all of classes, and make sure your schedule is not too busy.' I agree with this a lot because I experienced this class before and had to drop it. I read the chapters quick, I did attend 95% of classes, but I worked so much while taking four classes. This semester I'm not working as much and have fewer classes."

"'Honestly, to succeed in this course you need to participate. Come to class, learn as much as you can and don't worry so much about how you're doing in the class or what your exact grade is.' I agree with the advice of always participating. I learned from previous experiences that when I don't show up and don't pay enough attention in class, it is really hard to catch back up and get my grade back to where I want it to be."

"'Read the presentations before going to class! Even if it is super-confusing, it will be less confusing in class.' I agree with this piece, this is a method that I’ve used for courses in the past and have found that it has helped me understand the concepts a lot better."

"'Make sure you don't miss any lectures, that's where I got most of my clarification on confusing topics and where I learned how to complete midterm problems. If you understand the concepts the rest isn't too bad.' I agree with this because I learn best in the classroom and find that I usually do better in classes that I always show up to."

"'Don't do the homework at the last minute, and try to understand the material before coming to class. Do the problems and take good notes.' I agree with this person's advice because if you do homework in any class at the last minute then you aren't going to benefit from it, and it is always easier to learn more about a subject when you have a background on it before it just gets thrown at you."

"'If you read the presentations carefully before class, you will come in to the lecture with a fairly solid understanding of the concepts that are going to be presented. Anything that is not clear in the presentations should be able to be cleared up by the textbook, which is a great supplemental resource.' I agree with this comment because in my experience if you've looked over the lecture info before class, you are reinforcing knowledge you've already attained versus learning it for the first time in class."

"'Read the presentations before going to class! Even if it is super-confusing, it will be less confusing in class.' I like this piece of advice because I agree that going over the lecture information beforehand can be very helpful for your long-term understanding of the material."

"'P-dog's class is helpful in that way because you have enough cushion to where you can actually try to learn the material and you can fail a quiz or two and learn from your mistakes for the midterm. Also, go to office hours if you don't get it, P-dog is pretty chill and no one is ever in there so you can just bombard him with physics questions and he'll show you how to start a fire with steel wool and a battery.' I completely agree to celebrate mistakes and learn from them. Also start fires with batteries, haha."

Ask the instructor an anonymous question, or make a comment. Selected questions/comments may be discussed in class.
"I have nothing to say at this time but as the semester continues I will have more to say."

"I appreciate the grading system in this class because it gives me a little more cushion to be able to make a few mistakes and learn from them, rather than pay for it immediately and stress the rest of the semester."

"For the flipped classroom, would the class still discuss the presentations in class or just be applying the concepts to activities the next day? Or would it just apply to certain topics that are difficult?" (See comment below.)

"For students who do not do well with studying on their own, what advice to have to give to them about this flipped classroom policy?" (Don't stress out about having to learn everything on your own. Strictly speaking this is a "lightly flipped" class in the sense that you only need to preview the material enough to give me feedback on what you don't know (or do know); then we can go over these topics in class in more (or less) detail.)

"I am very curious to see how this whole 'flipped classroom' experience will be like. I sometimes get lost and throughout the semester lose motivation (for a brief day or two) and at times find it hard to comprehend materials on my own, so asking a lot of questions during class time will be huge for me."

"I really like that it seems easy to be able to go up to you or just in general, being able to ask you questions because a lot of instructors do seem intimidating and it gets difficult to ask those any questions."

"Is there an embedded tutor for this course?" (Unfortunately, not for this semester. I will find out when drop-in tutoring at the Learning Resource Center is available for this class.)

"Hi there! I don't mean to be rude by this comment, but I feel like the website is a little bit confusing. Might I suggest using a Google-driven website! they have a very intuitive system I was able to learn it my freshman year, with only a month or so of learning!" (I realize that the website is a bit "busy" visually, but the HTML is deliberately not fancy such that it will work on nearly every browser on every device, and the only navigation is scrolling up or down along the page and click on links (without fussy stuff like pull-down menus, etc.)

"Just excited to get going and learn some physics! I have never taken a physics course before so all of this seems a little daunting, but after reading all of the reviews and advice from previous students, I am excited to get started!"

"How were you introduced to the flipped class style? If you have used it in the past, has it increased students overall understanding of the subject?" (My feeling is that I am now able to ask much more conceptual in-depth exam questions, rather than only worked-out problems when teaching using traditional in-class lectures.)

"Am I going to lose credit on the first reading assignment because I didn't have access to the textbook?" (No, as long as you are able to provide feedback on the assignments (such as your comment right here).)

"What's that device on your neck?" (It's the microphone for my hearing aid--I have profound sensorineural hearing loss.)

"This is completely unrelated to the topic, and you don't have to answer if you don't want to, but how old are you? You look young, but you went to school and have been teaching for many years and I couldn't even guess your age if I tried. Again, you don't have to answer, I am just confused and very impressed." (Seems as if you really don't want to know the answer to your question.)

"Physics is epic."

"I am very glad we were lucky enough to get you as a teacher because I have heard great things about you. It has been a couple years since I took a basic physics class so I am a little nervous but it seems as though I'm in good hands." (I hope so, too.)

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