Physics 11 – One of the best things I have changed in physics is the order in which I do projectiles. From what I’ve seen across Vancouver, most teachers do projectiles at the end of kinematics. However, I now have students learn about them after we’ve done forces. At this point the students are about as good at drawing force diagrams and recognizing balanced forces as they will ever be. Therefore, the students in general have no problem understanding why a projectile only accelerates towards the Earth but not horizontally. They also have done some vector analysis with force diagrams, so the idea of vertical/horizontal components is not a new concept.
This is not to say that projectiles are easy for students. These questions often involve multiple small steps for solving and while the students can do each small step individually, putting them together into a complete solution is challenging. As well, this is a topic that only motivated students seem to do well in. I don’t have students hand in homework, so if they slack off, then the chances of them being successful is not that great.