I made this rather simple video this morning showing a physics demonstration on the effect of magnetic shielding. A paper clip is shown to be attracted to a magnet. A series of objects are placed in between, such as a plastic ruler, a steel ruler, a steel bookend, and some coins of different alloys.

It is interesting to note the types of material that provide magnetic shielding and those that do not. There is even a distinction between the types of steel, which is an alloy containing iron. Ferritic steel is magnetic while austenitic steel is not.

The theory behind magnetic shielding is that the flat magnetic material will direct the field lines of the magnet along its plane instead of allowing them to pass through, thus depriving the paper clip of a strong enough magnet field to keep it flying.

This simulation traces the flux linkage and corresponding emf generated by a rectangular coil rotating along an axis perpendicular to a uniform magnetic field. One is able to modify the angular frequency to see the effect on the frequency and peak emf generated.

This simulation is really more of an animation that allows students to apply Fleming's left hand rule on a line of electrons along a conductor cutting a magnetic field in order to appreciate how emf is generated.

I modified "DeLight", the board game that I designed a few years back into a worksheet version (for small groups) as well as a powerpoint version (that teacher can facilitate as a class activity, pitting half the class against another).

The objectives of the game is to reinforce concepts related to D.C. Circuits such as:

Sum of potential difference (p.d.) across parallel branches of a circuit is the same.

P.d. across a device is given by the ratio of resistance of device to total resistance multiplied by emf (potential divider rule)

Brightness of light bulb depends on electrical power

Current can bypass a device via a short-circuiting wire.

The worksheet and powerpoint slides contain a few examples that allow discussion on the above concepts based on some possible gameplay outcomes. For example, the following is a game where the blue team wins because the p.d. across each blue light bulb is twice that of the p.d. across each red light bulb.

In the following scenario, the game ended in a draw. Students may not be able to see it immediately, but the blue light bulb with a vertical orientation is actually short-circuited by the vertical branch on its right.

Feel free to use and/or modify the game to suit your own class needs.

As I was teaching the use of the potential divider equation to my IP4 (Grade 10) students last week, I approached it by teaching the rules first before showing worked examples. Thereafter, as some students remained confused, I merely reverted to explaining the rules. Eventually, I resorted to simplifying the equation by substituting simple numerical values in place of the multiple symbols that we use for emf, terminal p.d., resistance (more than one of them) and current, and many students' eyes lit up. It struck me then that I should have used the Concrete-Representational-Abstract approach in the first place.

Concrete-Representational-Abstract in Singapore Maths
Potential Divider Worksheet
Incidentally, I was reminded of this approach while helping my daughter with her Primary 2 Math homework last week. Since she was absent due to a stomach flu for 3 days this week, she had to bring work home to complete. There was an exercise on subtraction of numbers by separating into hundreds and tens and the first question looked like this:

There I was stuck at a primary school problem, not because I did not know that final answer is 157 but because I was not sure what to fill in for the circles. It did not help that my daughter was not clear about what to do either.

I then looked at her textbook for examples and what I saw was pictures of blocks in groups of 100s and 10s that look like this:

These are the tools that students in her class would have played with in the concrete or representation stage of learning. They can physically manipulate the blocks in order to do subtraction, which can be fun for those who like learning with a hands-on activity.

The abstract stage required by the question is for students to

remove 100 from the first number 207, leaving 107 (so the two circles will have numbers 100 and 107 in them)

deduct the second number from 100

and add the difference back to 107.

This is a technique that allows students to make quick mental calculations when subtracting tens from numbers more than 100 but requires a fair bit of practice to get used to. My daughter eventually had no problem with the rest of her homework after we figured this out.

Being a Physics teacher, I thought about how I could transfer this method of making a complex and abstract skill easier to pick up through concrete representations.

Usual Approach: Abstract to Concrete

In my IP4 Physics classes, we are currently on the topic of DC circuits, which involves calculations involving the potential divider method.

One of the main equations is the potential divider rule, in which V_{1} (p.d. across resistor R_{1}) is given by

For two classes, I started directly with equations before introducing examples (abstract to concrete), which is what physics teachers usually do. There is nothing wrong with this approach as students still see a concrete representation eventually but I was wondering if it might be more beneficial if students could synthesize the equation on their own by generalizing from examples. By the time I taught this same concept to the second class, I realized that most students were able to understand the equation only after giving concrete examples using numerical values.

Concrete Examples before Equations

For my third class, after being inspired by my daughter's homework, instead of introducing the equations straightaway, I started by introducing the concept of dividing emf between two resistors in series according to ratio of resistance. I used simple numbers for easier reference. In this way, I felt that students could then always link the equation back to the simple concept of ratios which helps them understand the intent of the equation.

When students see after one or two examples that all we are doing is trying to distribute the emf in proportion to the resistance that each resistor has so that it follows the ratio R_{1}:R_{2 } (concrete stage), I asked them to replace the numerical values with symbols (representation stage).

or (Concrete stage)

or (Representation stage)

From the last equation, students were asked to recall that emf is equal to the sum of the p.d. in the series circuit. The equation can then be rewritten as

or (Abstract stage)

I believe that if students can arrive that the final equation from the basic principles, they will understand more deeply and will be able to apply it in slightly different contexts, such as when there are more than 2 resistors in series, or when one resistor is varying (in the case of transducers such as LDRs and thermistors) or even when considering internal resistance of the cell.

Here's a simple worksheet that students can use to work out the potential divider equation on their own.

P.S. This is not a research study that compares whether abstract to concrete is better than the other way round, but merely a way for me to record what I've tried in different classes. I welcome comments from other teachers who may have tried a similar approach and have observed positive results.

I created this simulation for use later this semester with my IP4 classes, to illustrate the concept of phase difference between two oscillating particles.

So it's safe to use a mobile phone in a petrol station. But not wearing nylon.

For more on this, read the Straits Times article : http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/use-of-mobile-phones-at-petrol-stations-do-not-cause-fires-experts

It's interesting to note the differing views regarding the explanation for how a thin stream of water can get bent when a charged object is placed near it. It started with these two videos from Veritasium:

This video then sets out to disprove Veritasium's model of ions being removed from the water stream.

This simulation allows students to observe the variation of gravitational field strength and potential between two masses. Field strength is shown as vectors whereas potential is shown as scalar values on a plot. The resultant field strength and potential are shown in red.

The following simulation allows users to observe the effect of air resistance on a parachutist before and after he opens his parachute. Try to open the parachute when the man first reaches terminal velocity and observe the changes in velocity.