PHSX 205N Section 1—2015 Spring Syllabus

Instructor and Course Information

Course Description and Expectations

College Physics I is the first of two algebra-based introductory physics courses. In this course, you will study basic concepts in physics and develop problem solving skills. It is essential that you keep up with the material because the concepts presented in this course build on each other.

The use of mathematics will be necessary for understanding the topics that we will cover. The mathematics we will use in this course are algebra, geometry, and trigonometry. It is imperative that you are comfortable with these to be successful in this course.

To be successful in this class, time will need to be spent outside of lecture reviewing information from the course. It is highly recommended that you keep up with the reading assignments to gain a better understanding of the concepts being presented in lecture. Homework assignments also make up a large portion of your overall grade. You can expect to spend several hours each week doing homework. Remember, one credit hour represents three hours of work by the student, including class time. Being a four credit course, you can expect to put around 12 hours per week into the course to be successful.

Course Materials

College Physics, Etkina/Gentile/Van Heuvelen.
This text is available as a full textbook or split into two volumes. This course will only cover material found in the first volume. If you plan on taking PHSX 207N (College Physics II) after this course, then you may want to consider having the full textbook.
This online homework system will be used for regularly assigned homework. An access code is bundled with the course textbook sold at the Bookstore. It is also possible to buy an access code separate from the textbook at Bookstore or online.
This course management system is used by the university and requires your NetID to log in. Grades and other course materials (including this syllabus) will be posted on Moodle.
Scientific Calculator.
You will need a basic scientific calculator with logarithmic and trigonometric functions. You are expected to learn how to use your calculator. Do not expect to get help using it during an exam.
The type of notebook you use doesn't matter (e.g. spiral notebook, three-ring binder, composition notebook). Taking good notes can be a useful learning aid. Besides taking notes during lecture, also take notes as you read the book and study. If you have questions when you're studying, write them in your notebook. Nobody can answer your questions if you've forgotten what they are.

Course Objectives

Physics requires problem solving skills, and one of the purposes of this course is to help you practice these valuable skills. If you rely heavily on memorization of facts, laws, and formulas without understanding how to use these pieces of information or how they relate to each other, then you will not succeed in this course.

During this course, you should develop your skills in the following areas:
Quantitative Reasoning.
This includes tasks such as estimating the value of an unknown quantity and evaluating the reasonableness of numerical answers.
Transference of Ideas.
This includes the ability to apply learned concepts in new contexts and to combine concepts when analyzing a situation.
Critical Thinking.
This is the application of various cognitive skills in solving problems. It includes, but is not limited to, determining how different aspects of a problem are related and evaluating solutions and ideas for correctness.
Understanding and application of basic principles and theories of classical physics. The topics we will be covering will include:
  • Kinematics.
  • Newton's laws of motion.
  • Work and conservation of energy.
  • Collisions and conservation of momentum.
  • Fluids and pressure.
  • Temperature and heat.

Homework Problems

Regular homework problems will be done through the MasteringPhysics online homework system. If you already have an active account, you will only need log in and join the homework section for this course. Otherwise, you will need to create an account. You will require the following information:

When joining the homework course within MasteringPhysics, you may be asked to select the book you are using. Be sure you select the correct book.

Homework assignments will be spread throughout each week. There will generally by twenty problems each week, grouped into four sets of five problems. A problem set will normally be due at 11:59 pm each Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. In general, each individual problem is worth 5 points. Many problems have multiple parts, and the points are spread equally among all parts.

For each part of a problem, every incorrect answer will reduce the number of points you can earn for that part. There is a Give Up button available if you decide you cannot answer a particular part of a problem. If you use the Give Up button, no points can be earned for that part of a problem, but you can still get credit for other parts of a problem if you answer them correctly. If you find you are using the Give Up button, then please visit me for help. It's almost never a good idea to give up and throw your grade away.

After an assignment is due, you can go back and rework problems for extra practice; however, this will not change your score.

In-Class Weekly Quizzes

There will usually be an in-class quiz once a week at the end of the class period. If you have been keeping up with the material in the course, they should take no more than five or ten minutes to complete.


There will be four exams in this course, three evening exams and one final exam. The three evening exams will focus primarily on material covered since the previous exam. The final exam will be comprehensive.

All exams will be closed book. The use of a calculator is allowed on all exams. For each exam, you will be provided with a sheet of equations and information.

Exams will contain different types of questions. Questions which can possibly be guessed correctly (e.g. multiple choice questions) won't have partial credit allowed. Computational problems can earn partial credit. Most of the points for these problems will usually be for the correctness of your written solution leading to your answer.

Be aware that the exams occur outside regular lecture hours. The exams are scheduled on the following dates and times:

The dates scheduled for exams 1, 2, and 3 are subject to change if necessary. Final exams are subject to the University schedule, which can be found on-line through the Office of the Registrar.

Finals Week Schedules (

Make-up exams will only be given with advanced notice for known scheduling conflicts or under extreme circumstances. If you need to reschedule an exam, you must submit an Exam Reschedule Form. The form is available on the Moodle course web page.


This course can be taken for a tradition letter grade (A, B, C, D, F) with possible + or − suffixes. The Credit/No-credit option is not available for this course. The last day to drop the course for a W is April 6. Dropping the course on April 7 or later will result in a letter grade of WP or WF and also requires your Dean's signature. Course grades are determined from the following course components:

Your numerical course grade will be calculated as a weighted sum of the scores you've earned from each course component. \begin{align*} S_\textrm{course}&= 0.25*S_\textrm{H} + 0.05*S_\textrm{Q} + 0.15*(S_1 + S_2 + S_3) + 0.25*S_4\\ &\quad+ 0.05*\mathrm{max}(S_1,S_2,S_3) - 0.05*\mathrm{min}(S_1,S_2,S_3) &\end{align*} where \(S_\textrm{H}\) is the score from your homework, \(S_\textrm{G}\) is the score from in-class weekly quizzes, \(S_1\) is the score from exam 1, etc. The score for each course component is capped at 100. The grading scale for determining a letter grade from the course score is as follows:

Students should expect that no course curving will occur. Any of these grade boundaries may be lowered only if it is deemed appropriate to do so. If your exam scores demonstrate a significant improvement over the semester, it may be possible for your course score to have a small amount added to it to better reflect your improved abilities. This will be exercised at the instructor's discretion.

Academic Honesty

All students must practice academic honesty. Academic misconduct is subject to an academic penalty by the course instructor and/or disciplinary sanction by the University. All students need to be familiar with the Student Conduct Code. The Code is available for review online.

The Student Conduct Code (

Students with Disabilities

University of Montana assures equal access to instruction through collaboration between students with disabilities, instructors, and Disability Services for Students. If you think you may have a disability adversely affecting your academic performance, and you have not already registered with Disability Services, please contact Disability Services in Lommason Center 154 or (406) 243-2243. I will work with you and Disability Services to provide an appropriate modification.

Disability Services for Students (

Complaint Procedure

If anyone is having issues with the way that the course is being taught or the way that material is being presented I hope that you will come to me first to express your concerns. If you feel that you cannot come to me with these issues, you can contact the chair of the department, Dr. Andrew Ware, CHCB 132.