Welcome Letter

Dear Models of Motion students,

(updated on 9/7/14 to include physics textbook info).

Welcome to Models of Motion! For those of you new to the college, welcome to Evergreen! We are pleased to introduce ourselves as your faculty team: Krishna Chowdary will be with you all year, Rachel Hastings in fall & winter, and Neil Switz will be joining Krishna in the spring. We hope you are having a good summer and are looking forward to our work together this year.

We are writing with some information about the program to give you a better sense of what to expect. We have been planning aspects of this program for many months now, and are excited about beginning our work together as a class. Our academic backgrounds reflect the disciplines we will study in the program: Krishna and Neil are physicists and Rachel is a mathematician (and also a linguist). We each have several years of experience teaching and learning at Evergreen. In MoM we are particularly interested in ways in which the fields of mathematics and physics support, reinforce, and provide new perspectives on one another. In this letter we will provide information about MoM program content, activities, textbooks and schedule.

You should review the catalog description for our program http://evergreen.edu/catalog/2014-15/programs/modelsofmotion-10733. Our main areas will include math, physics, and a humanities-oriented seminar, which in fall will focus on the history of science. In mathematics we will be covering a standard first year calculus curriculum, with particular attention to applications to physics. We expect incoming students to have a solid grounding in precalculus, including algebra, trigonometry, and families of mathematical functions. In physics we will study mechanics in fall, and other standard topics in calculus-based introductory physics as the year goes on. Our fall seminar will involve reading, writing, and discussion centered on the history of physics.

What we are most excited about in the program, however, are the ways in which our principal subject areas will interact with one another. Math and physics are quite a familiar pairing, and (in fall) we will be reinforcing the synergy of our scientific work with a study of the history of physics which places our material in a more long-term cultural and social framework. We hope that this will allow us to see more deeply the insights which provide the backdrop to the material in our math and physics textbooks.

Our program website is blogs.evergreen.edu/motion. The website will eventually contain scheduling information, announcements, homework problem sets, etc., and will serve as a central clearinghouse of information for our program. Please get in the habit of checking the website frequently.

We know that many students have questions about their preparation when entering a program like MoM with significant science and math content. This is particularly true since many of you are new to Evergreen (again, welcome!) and others of you may well have been away from mathematics for some time. We are glad this program is of interest to students with diverse backgrounds, and we don’t expect any particular preparation in physics. Math is the area that you should think about seriously when you consider your readiness for the program.  Precalculus is assumed as the prerequisite for MoM so if you have any significant trouble with problems in algebra, geometry, or trigonometry, you should fill in this background now or else seriously consider postponing your study of calculus and calculus-based physics until you have taken further preparatory classes.  You can use your old textbooks for review material, and there is also a lot of precalculus review available on the web.  We’ll put some links on the website, and encourage you to add resources that you’ve found useful for precalculus review.

We ask you to do the following as soon as you can:

  1. Complete the on-line student survey available through our program website as soon as possible and no later than the first day of class.
  2. Review areas of precalculus that you may have forgotten or need to solidify.

We require three books for the fall quarter, and you will also need to purchase access to an on-line homework system (described below). Texts will be available in the college bookstore or can be purchased on your own.

  • Seminar: A Cultural History of Physics (Simonyi), ISBN: 1568813295. We recommend avoiding an electronic version of this text; reviews indicate that electronic versions have incorrect formatting, figure placement, and equations. This beautiful book is a must-have in its physical version. We use this text in fall quarter.
  • Calculus: Calculus (Strang 2010, 2e), ISBN: 0980232740. The first edition of Strang’s classic text is also acceptable, and is available as a free on-line resource (available at http://ocw.mit.edu/resources/res-18-001-calculus-online-textbook-spring-2005/textbook/), so if you don’t choose to buy a bound edition, you could print your own, or download an electronic copy. You will need to have access to the book during class meetings. Students continuing on in the study of mathematics and physics will find their calculus book a necessary reference so we encourage you to think about long term prospects. We use this text in fall, winter, and spring quarters.
  • Physics: Principles & Practice of Physics plus MasteringPhysics with eText — Access Card Package (Mazur), ISBN: 0136150934. You will need the full text (the “Principles” portion and the “Practice” portion) as well as the MasteringPhysics access card/code (MasteringPhysics is an online homework system) – all of these should come bundled using the ISBN provided. We use this text in fall, winter, and spring quarters.
  • Students will also need to purchase access to WebAssign, an on-line homework submission service that we will use for calculus (this is in addition to MasteringPhysics). More details will be provided at our first class meeting.

These books will soon be available at the campus bookstore, among many other places. Used textbooks will be cheaper. If you end up with an older edition of one of our textbooks, you may find that it doesn’t cover quite the same material, and the problems are different or numbered differently. These are all issues you’d need to resolve on your own.  (In the case of the Calculus book, either the first or second edition is acceptable, however.)  We’ll use the math and physics books for the full academic year.

Our fall quarter class schedule is as follows

You will see from the above schedule that our principal activities include lectures, workshops, labs, seminar discussion, and weekly quizzes. We will also have midterm and final exams in math and physics. Your time spent outside of class (including carefully reading our program texts, working on homework problem sets, writing and revising for seminar and labs, and preparing for workshops, quizzes and exams) will be significant.  If you are well prepared, both in precalculus and in college-level study skills and engagement, you should expect the total time to be at least 40-50 hours/week (including class time). We encourage you to think concretely now about how this time will dovetail with your other obligations such as work and personal commitments.

Please feel free to contact us with questions you might have.  We look forward to meeting and working with you this year.


Krishna Chowdary (chowdark@evergreen.edu) [Fall, Winter, Spring]

Rachel Hastings (hastingr@evergreen.edu) [Fall, Winter]

Neil Switz (switzn@evergreen.edu) [Spring]