Course Outline

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Mechanics: The Study of Motion

This wiki presents a course in college-level introductory mechanics using the Modeling Applied to Problem Solving (MAPS) approach.

Two Basic Types of Motion

Mechanics is the study of motion and how interactions (forces) change it. Like any college-level mechanics course, this wiki will teach you to describe two types of motion mathematically:

Three Basic Descriptions of Motion

Each of the two basic types of motion can be described using any one of three mathematical approaches:

These basic descriptions are fundamental organizing principles of mechanics, and they underlie the Hierarchy of Models used in the MAPS approach to mechanics. For a detailed preview/review of the Hierarchy of Models you can access the "Hierarchy of Models for Mechanics" navigation window in the left sidebar of this wiki.

Four Common Types of Interaction

The motion of a system will remain constant under any of these descriptions (constant velocity, constant momentum, or constant mechanical energy) unless the system experiences interactions. Introductory mechanics is principally concerned with four common types of interaction:

For a preview/review of each of these types of interaction, you can access the "Interactions Studied in Mechanics" navigation window in the left sidebar of this wiki.

Describing Interactions: The Essence of Modeling

The most difficult part of learning to solve mechanics problems is determining which description of the motion (velocity, momentum or mechanical energy) to employ. In this course, we will refer to this decision making process as "choosing a Model" or "modeling the situation". Choosing one Model over others is difficult because the preference for one Model over another is a consequence of the interactions that are present, not a consequence of the motion.

Each of the three basic quantities that describe motion (velocity, momentum, and mechanical energy) invites a qualitatively different description of the interactions. A given set of interactions is often greatly simplified if one of these descriptions is chosen over another. Gaining the strategic insight to recognize the advantage of a specific Model for describing the interactions present in a problem is an important step along the road to expertise in physics problem solving.

The details of describing interactions in mechanics will occupy most of the course. Thus, it is impossible to succinctly summarize them here. Instead, we present a concept map that previews the basic structure of the course. Each unit of the course will begin by highlighting the portion of this concept map that is covered in that unit.


Course Outline as Concept Map

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