Science Course Progression For My Child?

This discussion was created from comments split from: ap chem.

What a timely thread. I went to the open house of the high school D21 wants to go last night.
I was trying to figure out how to get all the science in. Our school district requires bio in 9th grade, either reg or H.
So if the goal is AP chem and AP calc based physics how does one fit this in?

Math will be Alg II in 9th grade
PreCal 10 grade
BC Calc 11 grade

This is what I was thinking, but honestly I have no idea.

Bio H 9th grade
Chem H 9th grade
AP chem 10 grade
AP physics I Algebra based 11 grade
AP physics C 12 th grade

Re: #28

Better would be regular/honors physics that gives an overview of the range of topics instead of AP physics 1. Assuming that AP physics C is only mechanics, your plan with AP physics 1 would cover mechanics twice, but other topics not at all.


These are all the physics courses offered at our school.
Can you kindly look this over and maker your recommendations.

Integrated Physics and Chemistry, Grades 9-12, 1 Credit [Regular] For the Recommended Program, IPC must be taken prior to Chemistry and Physics In Integrated Physics and Chemistry, students conduct field and laboratory investigations, use scientific methods during investigations, and make informed decisions using critical-thinking and scientific problem solving. This course integrates the disciplines of physics and chemistry in the following topics: motion, waves, energy transformations, properties of matter, changes in matter, and solution chemistry. (03060201) (SPSR11)

Physics 1 AP, Grades 10-12, 1 Credit [Advanced Placement] 4th year science credit under the Recommended Program and Distinguished Program 3rd year science credit under the Foundation Program 3rd or 4th year science credit under the Foundation plus Endorsement Program This course is the equivalent to a first-semester college course in algebra-based physics. The course covers Newtonian mechanics, work, energy, power, mechanical waves, sound, and electric circuits. Prerequisites: Geometry and Algebra II or concurrent enrolled in Algebra II. (A3050003) (SPYH81)

Physics 2, AP Grades 11-12, 1 Credit [Advanced Placement] 4th year science credit under the Recommended Program and Distinguished Program 3rd year science credit under the Foundation Program 3rd or 4th year science credit under the Foundation plus Endorsement Program This course is the equivalent to a second-semester college course in algebra-based physics. The course covers fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, electricity and magnetism, optics, and atomic and nuclear physics. Prerequisites: AP Physics I and Pre-Calculus or concurrently enrolled in Pre-Calculus. (A3050004) (SPYH91)

Physics C AP, Grades 11-12, 1 Credit [Advanced Placement] 4th year science credit under the Recommended Program and Distinguished Program This is a college-level course designed to prepare a student for study in engineering or other physical science disciplines. The class is divided by semester into mechanics and electro-magnetism. Many of the concepts covered will require differential or integral calculus. It is expected that students who take an Advanced Placement course in physics will seek college credit and/or placement from institutions of higher learning. Prerequisite: Physics AP 1 and Calculus or concurrently enrolled in Calculus. (A3050002) (SPYH71

Much appreciated

Just curious…why the high emphasis on these sciences?

Why bio AND chem in 9th grade? Why two AP physics courses…one in 11th and one in 12th?

As a former chemistry teacher, I would not recommend Honors Chem in 9th grade. Heck, I don’t even recommend it in 10th. The IPC course sounds like a much better idea.

It all depends on the school. When our school offered Honors Bio and Honors Chem, they were intended as substitutes for regular classes. Also, at our school the integrated Chem/Phys classes are for those students who would not make it in the regular science classes to still meet the state science graduation requirements. They are not intended as college prep level courses.

@thumper1 If you are planning a science or engineering major, generally the credit for AP Physics 1 and 2 would not be accepted but AP Physics C would. On the other hand, I would not recommend taking Physics C without a previous physics course and that course here is AP Physics 1 for the STEM-focussed students. Previously, kids at our school often took the old AP Physics B as that first course. Now, since both AP Physics 1 and AP Physics C are only mechanics at our school, there are definitely the concerns that @ucbalumnus mentions with never seeing electro-magnetism subjects.

If it was our school, I would agree with the OP’s proposed schedule (given that the AP Physics C does include electro-magnetism). However, the caveat would still be that it would be the first time the student has seen subjects in electro-magnetism.

While all HS’s are free to set their own curriculum and flow, the “normal” progression seems to be bio->chem->physics->Advanced science. With the creation of AP Physics 1, that seems to have replaced the junior year physics class for honors students (although with a 64% failure rate on the AP exam, one can argue the validity of that strategy). Additionally, many top colleges are looking for a year of bio, chem, and physics, so for those top students, I’m not sure that IPC is the best class.

Option 1:
9th: Bio H
Summer: Chem H
10th: AP Physics 1
11th: AP Physics C or AP Chem
12th: whichever one was not taken in 11th.

Option 2:
9th: Bio H
10th: Chem H
Summer: Physics H (unless AP Physics 1 is offered)
11th: AP Physics C or AP Chem
12th: whichever one was not taken in 11th.

Option 3:
9th: Bio H
10th: Chem H
11th: AP Physics 1
12th: AP Chem and AP Physics C

My D16 did 9th -Bio and integrated math 2 and 3, 10th- Chem. Trig/PreCalc, 11th- AP BIO, AP Chem and Calc A/B and as a senior is doing AP Environmental and AP Physics (Calc based) on independent study as she was the only one enrolled.

@VANURSEPRAC Sounds like you are in a Texas public school.

The track you have in mind is the track many kids in my kids district follow. They used to take IPC in 8th for High school credit but now they have the option of Biology in 8th. Most no longer take IPC. Rather than doubling up on Bio and Chem in 9th, many double up on AP Chem and AP physics in 11th grade. A few fearless ones throw AP Bio on top of that but I do not recommend that.

In our district (as in yours) Physics I is required before C but many kids skip Physics 2 in favor of C. Some take 2 and C concurrently as seniors. Our Physics C teacher would expect a baseline from Physics I.

I highly recommend you talk to another parent of an upperclassman parent to get a feel for when doubling up is best. I think doubling up the honors intro classes makes more sense than doubling up the APs but I am not in your district and every school is different.

I took Chem Honors, Ap Chem, and Ap Bio in that order (I’m graduating in three years). A lot of the students at my school skip Chem reg/hon to do AP Chem

Re: #3

An odd looking set of physics courses.

Looks like the choices are:

  • integrated physics and chemistry (IPC)
  • AP physics 1 (year course)
  • AP physics 2 (year course)
  • AP physics C (year course covering *both* mechanics and E&M)

It looks like there is no traditional regular year long physics course. Either take the IPC (which appears to be a brief course in both physics and chemistry), or take the AP courses. Note that AP physics C in these choices is close to college pace, but AP physics 1 and 2 are slower paced.

In the context of the above choices, a student who does not want the brief IPC course essentially has two choices:

  • AP physics 1 and AP physics 2: overview of all of the major topics in general physics at the honors high school level (without calculus).
  • AP physics 1 and AP physics C: mechanics and E&M with calculus, with some possibility of subject credit (although not that high a possibility, since college physics with calculus often uses more advanced math like multivariable calculus for E&M). However, topics other than E&M listed in AP physics 2 will not be covered.

If the student intends to take the SAT subject test in physics, the sequence of AP physics 1 and AP physics C will only cover 54% to 66% of the topics on that subject test. Of course, if the student starts AP physics 1 in 11th grade, s/he will not be able to complete the coverage of the SAT subject test in physics in time for the test.

As I mentioned upthread, HS’s seem to be getting away from honors physics in place of AP Physics 1, for better or worse.

Yup. In my mind, that’s a big issue. None of the four AP Physics courses on their own, nor the 2 Physics C courses, will prepare the student for the Subject Test.

Most colleges only require two subject tests so what difference does it make if one of them isn’t physics? They can take math 2 and biology for example

Seems worse.

Before AP physics B was split into 1 and 2, some high schools used AP physics B as their (one year long) honors physics course. Of course, the old PSSC high school physics course from a few decades ago was sufficient for good students to score in the mid-700s on the physics achievement (now SAT subject) test and have enough of an overview of physics so that they are not disadvantaged when taking physics in college.

Given the low value of AP physics credit for subject credit and advanced placement*, the elimination of good one year high school physics courses in favor of two year AP sequences seems worse in all respects (other than high schools advertising the number of AP courses and tests offered and taken).

*The B/1/2 version was only intended to cover physics for biology majors, but many colleges use some calculus in that course, so they do not accept it. And many biology majors are pre-meds who need college physics anyway for medical schools that do not accept AP credit. The C version (particularly E&M) is often not accepted due to limited topic coverage compared to the college’s physics courses, and/or insufficient math intensity (E&M often requires multivariable calculus as at least a corequisite).

We are living this right now - same problem for my junior - CB changed the AP Physics courses in 2014 - it is not recommended to start with Physics C (calculus based).

My son – currently taking AP Physics I (and wont take Physics 2) wants to take AP Physics C (electricity & magnetism) and also to be able to apply to some top STEM colleges - hence he should take the SAT Physics subject test. But we know that Physics I is only about half the content of the SAT subject test. So this SUMMER he’ll sacrifice some other things to learn the physics needed for the subject test so he can take it in September. He can take a CTY or other online course (Coursera, EdX etc.) and get some help I suppose. I talked to several teachers and advisers about it - they are frustrated the AP offerings of Physics 1 & 2 are not possible to take in 1 year and cover only half of an intro physics course, though more in depth and slower in what they cover. Think a year long physics intro could be a better option. But hopefully he’ll & other students will be ok in the long run. Good luck to others!

Again I ask…why is it important for this,student to take this very aggressive science sequence?

Agree that the question should be asked, but it is likely part of the reason is that there is no comprehensive one year high school physics course like there used to be.

Great question thumper. CB should not determine HS physics curriculum. The HS should determine its own physics curriculum

It does appear that many high schools just take whatever the College Board has for AP courses as the courses for advanced students. The proliferation of AP courses of dubious value in terms of advanced placement in college (e.g. human geography, environmental science) and the mess being made of high school physics seem consistent with that.

It is true that some AP courses of dubious value in terms of advanced placement in college are good high school level courses (e.g. human geography and the upcoming computer science principles). However, it is a sad state of affairs that it seems necessary to misuse the AP label for such courses in order to get high schools to offer them.

Unfortunately, non-elite high schools sometimes have very weak college-prep (non-AP) courses and curricula, meaning that they are not necessarily doing a good job determining their own curricula (generally, not just physics).