Monday, March 21, 2016

Testing the limits of my enjoyment

As readers might be able to tell, I like science.   Always have.  Read a lot of kids' science books in primary school, sometimes, for example, spending pocket money on buying a new "How and Why" book - remember those?  And people gave me children's encyclopaedias as a gift, or books about space.  (Happily, even in Year 8 I got a spacey book from school as some sort of achievement prize.  I think I'm remembering this right - I still have it on the shelf and should check.)

This is by way of background to explaining that I have taken particular enjoyment in helping my kids with their school science.   Honestly, for parents like me, I wouldn't mind if the school could just sent me the assignment and cut out the middle child.  (I'm joking - sort of...)

But this weekend, my patience on this was tested.  

My son had to a write up of an experiment on Newtons laws of motion (so far, so good); but the experiment set up was this:  rolling two different sized (different weight) marbles down a slope and measuring the time taken.  Not only that, but it was done on four different surfaces (carpet, wood, pipe, and some non slip mat.)

He did this at school, and got some results.  (I had to learn about Excels charting functions to make him do the bar charts better though.   Now we both know.)

But the problem is with the interpretation and discussion section.

Let me assure you, dear reader, that any time spent Googling the topic such as "does a heavier ball roll down a slope faster than a lighter ball" will quickly show you that this is a topic that causes massive confusion, and is actually very complicated and well beyond the simple "Newtons three laws of motion."   (If you think I'm exaggerating, go have a look.   It's a topic that is much worse than the more straight forward "why do objects fall at the same rate under gravity in a vacuum.")

It really drove me a bit crazy trying to work out what my son could legitimately and accurately say regarding this, given the relatively light exposure to Newton that a Year 10 student gets.  I think I came up with some useful suggestions, but did the silly teacher really have to complicate this further by the use of different surfaces? 

This is by far the worst science assignment my son's teacher had ever me work on, and I expect better next time!

No comments: