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What is the best way to learn Physics?

Physics is a mysterious subject for many students. Some students find it difficult, some students find it easy. Some students learn Physics for only marks (and end up never learning Physics), while some students learn Physics to learn Physics and get good marks as a by-product.

Many students think they are scoring well in exams and that they must be learning Physics. But, are they really learning Physics? We thought we should clear some confusion and shed on some light on the best way to learn Physics.

So, what is the best way to learn Physics?

There are many ways to learn Physics. You can read a book, watch a video or attend a class with a good teacher. No matter what you do, a good way to learn Physics is to ask questions. And, then look for the answer. Then, check if your answer makes sense. If not, ask another question. If follow this process repeatedly then you’d have learned some Physics.

If you are watching a video, pause the video. Ask yourself if you truly understand. If you are about to flip the page of a book, pause and ask if you agree with the text. Can you think of similar examples from your experience? Reflection, thinking critically and asking questions is a great way to learn anything, including Physics.

Albert Einstein. Ask questions.

Sit and observe your world sometimes..

Put your phone away and sit in silence. Look at the things in your room. Look outside the window.

Physics is the study of the world around you. The movement of the bus, the water in the glass, the blue colour of the sky -- Physics attempts to understand every phenomenon around us better. If you observe your surroundings critically and ask questions, you will start learning Physics. Physics is right before you all the time.

Would you believe me if I say that this world is full of wonders? You may not believe me because we see these events and objects so frequently that we take them for granted. We are immune to their beauty.

But, if you being to to question the most obvious things, the beauty of Physics will unravel itself before you. Let me share a few examples:

There is wind blowing outside. What makes the air move? Who pushes it?

You can listen to the sound of the wind. What causes that sound the be produced?

You step outside and the same wind makes you feel cold. The air is not cold but the fact that it is moving changes everything. What makes the moving air make us feel cold?

You feel cold because our brain senses heat to be lost from your body. How does our brain know so quickly that heat is being lost?

What makes the air move?

Many things around you are begging to be questioned. Physics is not only in the textbooks. Physics is not only on your computer screen. Physics is in the wall that you are seeing. In the chair that you are feeling. In the bulb that is glowing. The topics of Heat, Force, Sound, Electric Current, Light that are learned in schools are all around you.

Do you need a Physics teacher to learn Physics?

Well, yes and no. You need someone who teaches you to think Physics, not someone who teaches you for exams. You need someone who guides you into exploring Physics and lets you think on your own. You need a guide but definitely not a tutor (in its most generic meaning).

You need a combination of someone who enjoys Physics and someone who teaches by asking questions. You need a combination of Socrates and Walter Lewin. What do I mean by that?

Socrates was great at asking questions and letting his students figure out the answers on their own. His method of teaching by questioning is known as Socratic Style of Questioning.

Walter Lewin is an ex-professor at MIT. He is famous on YouTube for his Physics videos. He has the ability to demonstrate the beauty of Physics through amazing experiments. A good Physics teacher would combine the two methods. He/she would ask questions and in the process allow students to see the beauty of Physics themselves.

Are children learning Physics currently? What is the current situation?

Physics is like an ocean. It has fishes, coraf reef and turtles inside. It is deep and beautiful. Learning Physics is like scuba diving in that ocean. Unfortunately, in most schools, children don't even get to touch the surface of physics. They are not even snorkelling in the amazing ocean of Physics.

Children score good marks. They 'learn' Physics but do not learn Physics.

The problem is that schools mainly teach for the exams. They limit the thinking of children by limiting themselves to a fixed set of questions.

The curiosity that children have in childhood is lost while preparing for exams. They start scoring well in their Physics exams and they start thinking they are learning Physics. And, after each exam, they are awarded for answering questions, whose answers were already available in teachers' notes.

Learning Physics is a journey of struggle. Children need to get used to it.

Children need to do the heavy-lifting.

When you learn Physics and seek answers to questions, you are proven wrong many times. Your answer may not tally with the experiment or the hypothesis. This forces you to think again. After a roller coster ride of thinking and questioning, you start learning Physics better. In the process, you also learn to think deeper.

How should children learn Physics?

Children need a method that teaches Physics by asking them questions and making them see the wonder of Physics.

I would recommend a new app called Unbox Physics. Unbox allows children to think on their own without 'lecturing' them. It also shows children the wonders of Physics with beautiful questions and experiments.

It is developed by a team that thinks Science, eats Science and dreams Science!

You can download the app here: Google Play, Apple Store


Aneesh Bangia

Aneesh Bangia is the co-founder of Open Door. He writes about the past, present and future of education.

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