Sound and music planning variations

My last post on my tentative approach to teaching “Physics of Sound and Music” this fall generated a lot of questions for me (thanks to all who are making me question just about everything!). Here I jot down some hare-brained schemes that would take me in some different directions.

First few labs

A number of years ago I participated in a workshop on using something called the “game of science.” I really liked it! The basic premise is that science is all about trying to figure out the “rules” of the game of the universe, based solely on the results of the universe. So what the “game of science” activity does is show students the board, pieces, and results of a game they’ve never heard of before, and asks them to determine the rules. I’ve used it a couple of times with pre-service science teachers (where once I used SocCourt as the game) and with first year students in a first year seminar called “I want to be a quantum mechanic.”  It’s a fun activity, and I think it might go pretty well with these students who are likely taking their last science class ever.

I’d also like to do an early lab (second week, probably) where they have to measure the speed of sound with whatever is in their pockets. They can go outside, whatever, but they have to document their methodology. We’ll come back together to explore the various results, but mostly to explore and comment on the various methodologies.

It’s possible we could spread this lab out over more than one week, to really refine the most accurate way of measuring the speed of sound on our campus with pocket equipment.

I’d like as many labs as possible to be like that last one. I want to give them something to observe/measure, and have them determine the most appropriate methodology. That’s doing science, not cooking, right?

SBG adjustments

One comment I received talked about how the videos that my students make could be about more than one standard. This reminded me a lot of my physics teacher friends who give sbg quizzes where each problem might get 2 or 3 standards assessed. It also got me thinking about just how much I have liked my recent SBG incarnations, where the number of standards always matched the number of class days. Each day has a standard, and that gives a great focus to the class. If I were to do that with this larger class, they’d have to combine standards in their vids, since the average is usually around 3 tries per standard.

There’s another approach that is intriguing to me. Have daily standards, and have weekly quizzes (in class) that randomly assess those standards. Then have the videos only be for re-assessment, where they can do similar problems to the quiz problems. I like this because they’ll self-select the standards to improve, and they’ll have a model of the type of problem that works well for multiple standards.

I’m not sure if I’ll have them apply to reassess, like so many of my friends do, but I can definitely see the use of having them point out what they did to learn the standard better. Also, if they reapply, I can craft another problem for them that has the standards they want to reassess.


For the moment, I’m planning on using this online text, augmented with my own CDF documents. My friend Andrew Morrison pointed out that a lot of my earlier brainstorming seemed to give short shrift to the “and music” portion of the title, and, unfortunately, the online text does the same. But, I think there’s lots of ways to incorporate some more music-learning resources. I’m really impressed, for example, by Andy Piacsek’s collection of great resources on his most recent syllabus.

How can you help

I’m interested in feedback on all of this. Some ways you could help:

  • Here’s another cool lab you could do that has that same philosophy . . .
  • Wait, you really should have them develop solid lab skills by giving them more support . . .
  • I think your “1 standard per day” is a great idea, here’s a cool tweak to think about . . .
  • I think your “1 standard per day” is a terrible idea, but here’s a way to tweak it to be better . . .
  • Here are some more resources you could use for your students . . .

About Andy Rundquist

Professor of physics at Hamline University in St. Paul, MN
This entry was posted in syllabus creation, teaching. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Sound and music planning variations

  1. bretbenesh says:

    Have you heard of the card game Eleusis? That has an outside chance of being interesting for your “game of science” idea. But probably not.

  2. Hi, Andy — thanks for this post. Next year, my colleague (a cellist and recording engineer!) and I are teaching a semester-long Acoustics elective for the third time, and we are looking to make improvements. We’ll have 10th through 12th graders. I’ll be following your progress… here’s a past version of our course:
    (We don’t do SBG.)

  3. Pingback: SBG thoughts after AAPT | SuperFly Physics

  4. Pingback: Sound and music update | SuperFly Physics

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