Conceptual physics

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Conceptual physics is a lesser mathematical approach to teaching physics. It is believed that with a strong conceptual foundation in physics, students are better equipped to understand the equations and formulas of physics, and to make connections between the concepts of physics and their everyday life.

Paul G. Hewitt popularized this approach with his textbook Conceptual Physics: A New Introduction to your Environment in 1971.[1] In his review at the time, Kenneth Ford noted the emphasis on logical reasoning and said "Hewitt's excellent book can be called physics without equations, or physics without computation, but not physics without mathematics."[2] Hewitt's wasn't the first book to take this approach. Conceptual Physics: Matter in Motion by Jae R. Ballif and William E. Dibble was published in 1969.[3] But Hewitt's book became very successful. It is currently in its eleventh edition.[4] In 1987 Hewitt wrote a version for high school students.[5]

The spread of the conceptual approach to teaching physics broadened the range of students taking physics in high school.[6] Enrollment in conceptual physics courses in high school grew from 25,000 students in 1987 to over 400,000 in 2009. In 2009, 37% of students took high school physics, and 31% of them were in Physics First, conceptual physics courses, or regular physics courses using a conceptual textbook.[7]

This approach to teaching physics has also inspired books for science literacy courses, such as From Atoms to Galaxies: A Conceptual Physics Approach to Scientific Awareness by Sadri Hassani.[8]


  1. ^ Hewitt, Paul G. (1971). Conceptual Physics: A New Introduction to your Environment. Little, Brown and Co. 
  2. ^ Ford, Kenneth W. (October 1971). "Conceptual Physics: A New Introduction to Your Environment". Physics Today 24 (10): 54–55. Bibcode:1971PhT....24j..54H. doi:10.1063/1.3022390. 
  3. ^ Ballif, Jae R.; William E. Dibble (1969). Conceptual Physics: Matter in Motion. Wiley. 
  4. ^ Hewett, Paul G. (2010). Conceptual Physics (11th ed.). Addison-Wesley. ISBN 978-0-321-56809-0. 
  5. ^ Hewitt, Paul G. (2009). Conceptual Physics: The High School Physics Program (3rd ed.). Pearson/Prentice Hall. ISBN 978-0-133-64749-5. 
  6. ^ Hehn, Jack; Michael Neuschatz (February 2006). "Physics For All? A Million and Counting!" (PDF). Physics Today 59 (2): 37–43. Bibcode:2006PhT....59b..37H. doi:10.1063/1.2186280. 
  7. ^ White, Susan; Casey Langer Tesfaye (August 2010). "High School Physics Courses and Enrollments" (PDF). Focus On (American Institute of Physics Statistical Research Center). 
  8. ^ Hassani, Sadri (2010). From Atoms to Galaxies: A Conceptual Physics Approach to Scientific Awareness. CRC Press. ISBN 978-1-4398-0849-8. 

External links[edit]