Academic standards list

Physics — Science (2009-2018)


Academic standards define the expectations for knowledge and skills that students are to learn in a subject by a certain age or at the end of a school grade level. This page contains a list of standards for a specific content area, grade level, and/or course. The list of standards may be structured using categories and sub-categories.

Embedded Inquiry

Standard INQ — Embedded Inquiry
Science is a relentless quest for understanding how the natural world works. All of science is driven by the premise that the world is capable of being understood. Yet, scientists believe that currently accepted explanations of natural phenomena or events are never perfect or fully complete and are always amenable to revision in light of new scientific evidence. Each scientific discipline uses its distinctive tools and techniques to investigate phenomena associated with the physical, geological, or living worlds. All rely upon theories from which the development of hypotheses emerge, the collection of data, and the interpretation of evidence as the foundation for reaching logical conclusions and making reasoned predictions.Conceptual StrandUnderstandings about scientific inquiry and the ability to conduct inquiry are essential for living in the 21st century.Guiding QuestionWhat tools, skills, knowledge, and dispositions are needed to conduct scientific inquiry?
Course Level Expectation
Recognize that science is a progressive endeavor that reevaluates and extends what is already accepted.
Design and conduct scientific investigations to explore new phenomena, verify previous results, test how well a theory predicts, and compare opposing theories.
Use appropriate tools and technology to collect precise and accurate data.
Apply qualitative and quantitative measures to analyze data and draw conclusions that are free of bias.
Compare experimental evidence and conclusions with those drawn by others about the same testable question.
Communicate and defend scientific findings.
State Performance Indicator
Select a description or scenario that reevaluates and/or extends a scientific finding.
Analyze the components of a properly designed scientific investigation.
Determine appropriate tools to gather precise and accurate data.
Evaluate the accuracy and precision of data.
Defend a conclusion based on scientific evidence.
Determine why a conclusion is free of bias.
Compare conclusions that offer different, but acceptable explanations for the same set of experimental data.

Embedded Mathematics

Standard MATH — Embedded Mathematics
Conceptual StrandScience applies mathematics to investigate questions, solve problems, and communicate findings.Guiding QuestionWhat mathematical skills and understandings are needed to successfully investigate biological topics?
Course Level Expectation
Graph relationships and functions between manipulated (independent) variables and responding (dependent) variables.
Solve for variables in an algebraic formula.
Apply statistical techniques to manipulate data.
Investigate trigonometric connections to physics.
Utilize calculus to understand physics principles.
State Performance Indicator
Graph basic physics relations and functions.
Determine the slope of a linear function that represents physics data.
Determine the frequency, range, mode, median, and mean from a list of physics data.
Utilize a graphing calculator to enter physics data and find basic statistics: frequency, range, mean, mode, median, and standard deviation.
Solve for the t value, p (probability), and % of confidence between two lists of physics data (manipulated variables and responding variables).
Reject or not reject a null hypothesis based on statistical analysis.
Find the regression line (equation) between physics data for manipulated and responding variables.

Embedded Technology/Engineering

Standard T/E — Embedded Technology/Engineering
Scientific inquiry is fueled by the desire to understand the natural world; technological design is driven by the need to meet human needs and solve human problems. Technology exerts a more direct effect on society than science because it is focused on solving human problems, helping humans to adapt to changes, and fulfilling goals and aspirations. The engineering design cycle describes the worklives of practicing engineers. The design cycle describes a series of activities that includes a background research, problem identification, feasibility analysis, selection of design criteria, prototype development, planning and design, production and product evaluation. Because there are as many variations of this model, practicing engineers do not adhere to a rigid step-by-step interpretation of this design cycle.Conceptual StrandSociety benefits when engineers apply scientific discoveries to design materials and processes that develop into enabling technologies.Guiding QuestionHow do science concepts, engineering skills, and applications of technology improve the quality of life?
Course Level Expectation
Explore the impact of technology on social, political, and economic systems.
Differentiate among elements of the engineering design cycle: design constraints, model building, testing, evaluating, modifying, and retesting.
Explain the relationship between the properties of a material and the use of the material in the application of a technology.
Describe the dynamic interplay among science, technology, and engineering within living, earth-space, and physical systems.
State Performance Indicator
Distinguish among tools and procedures best suited to conduct a specified scientific inquiry.
Evaluate a protocol to determine the degree to which an engineering design process was successfully applied.
Evaluate the overall benefit to cost ratio of a new technology.
Use design principles to determine if a new technology will improve the quality of life for an intended audience.


Standard 1 — Mechanics
Mechanics is perhaps the broadest topic within the study of natural law or physics. The study of mechanics explains the rules of how objects move. The forces that hold the planets to the sun, the energy of a tidal wave, the nature of black holes, are all described within mechanics. Predicting the outcome of collisions between atoms or asteroids is also part of the mechanical realm as is how a massive aircraft carrier floats. Conceptual StrandLaws of mechanics are the foundations of classical physics.Guiding QuestionHow do the laws of mechanics govern the basic understanding of classical physics?
Course Level Expectation
Investigate fundamental physical quantities of length, mass, and time.
Analyze and apply Newtons three laws of motion.
Understand work, energy, and power.
Investigate kinematics and dynamics.
Investigate and apply Archimedess Principle.
Explore Pascals Principle.
Develop an understanding of Bernoullis Principle and its applications.
State Performance Indicator
Identify mass and weight data using units in the SI system.
Given various examples of quantities, categorize them as scalar or vector quantities.
Given Newtons laws of motion, analyze scenarios related to inertia, force, and action-reaction.
Solve motion and conceptual problems regarding velocity, acceleration, and displacement using displacement-time graphs and velocity-time graphs.
Solve problems for friction, gravity, impulse, and momentum using the provided formula card.
Given the static and kinetic friction coefficients; select the appropriate coefficient of friction and calculate the force necessary to move the object.
Select the correct vector diagram to illustrate all forces on an object affected by gravity, friction and an applied force.
Given an inclined plane, the required coefficient of friction and an object of a specific mass, select the appropriate trigonometry functions to determine
Given the mass, velocity and time it takes to stop an object in an inelastic collision, determine the momentum and impulse of the collision.
Analyze and solve problems related to elastic and inelastic collisions related to change in momentum.
Given a projectile launched at an angle, select the correct equation from a list for calculating: the maximum height of travel, time of flight and/or the
Given a scenario where a projectile is being launched at an angle, answer the following conceptual questions. What is the velocity in the y direction when the
Given various examples of quantities, categorize them as scalar or vector quantities.
Relate the variables of work, power, kinetic energy, and potential energy to mechanical situations and solve for these variables.
Calculate the gravitational attraction between two objects.
Solve rotational inertia and torque problems using the formula card.
Solve problems for centripetal force, and angular acceleration.
Analyze and solve problems related to rotational motion and torque.
Calculate the pressure exerted by a fluid according to Pascals Principle.
Calculate how pressure varies with water depth.
Using the continuity equation, solve problems related to the motion of a fluid.
Choose examples that show the effects of Bernoullis principle.


Standard 2 — Thermodynamics
Thermodynamics is study of energy on the molecular level, and how this energy can be harnessed to produce useful mechanical work. As the name thermodynamics implies, thermal energy can move as it is transferred from one body to another as heat. This flow of thermal energy can cause changes in the state of substances, or cause them to expand or contract. The industrial revolution was born when humans invented, and then improved upon, the steam engine our first attempt to harness the flow of thermal energy and convert a small portion of it into mechanical work. Our modern automobiles, refrigerators, and electrical power plants all run on thermodynamic heat transfer, and are ultimately governed by the laws of thermodynamics.Conceptual StrandThe principles and laws of thermodynamics are essential for understanding the concept of energy.Guiding QuestionHow do the laws of thermodynamics relate to understanding the conservation of energy?
Course Level Expectation
Develop an understanding of temperature, heat, and internal energy.
Compare Celsius, Kelvin and the Absolute temperature scales.
Investigate exchanges in internal energy.
State Performance Indicator
Relate temperature changes with the changes of kinetic energy.
Select characteristics of internal energy in relationship to temperature and heat transfer.
Solve problems of heat exchange with respect to specific heat using the formula card.
Solve problems related to heat of vaporization and heat of fusion.
Solve problems related to linear and volumetric expansion.
Solve problems of heat exchange.


Standard 3 — Waves
Standing on the seashore, it is somewhat incredible to consider that the waves rolling in may have been generated hundreds of miles away, and yet the water molecules through which the waves travel havent moved very far at all. Ocean waves are just one example of waves, which are defined as disturbances or perturbations that can travel very long distances from their points of origin with little or no net displacement of the medium through which they travel. Our ears are sensitive detectors of sound waves. When we listen to music, or talk to a friend, we respond to the complex patterns of frequency and amplitude inherent in natural sound, and interpret them. Conceptual StrandUnderstanding sound and light is accomplished by investigating wave behavior.Guiding QuestionHow do the properties of mechanical waves, sound, and light explain the behavior of waves?
Course Level Expectation
Explore conditions associated with how waves carry energy and simple harmonic motion.
Investigate Hookes law.
Understand wave mechanics.
Examine the Doppler Effect.
Explore the characteristics and properties of sound.
State Performance Indicator
Identify parts of standing wave (nodes, antinodes, fundamental, numeric harmonics, and overtones).
Identify parts of mechanical waves (wavelength, frequency, period, crest, trough, and amplitude.)
Select the type of mechanical waves that apply to common waves (sound, water, earthquake, etc.)
Differentiate among the wave interactions of reflection, refraction, diffraction, or interference (constructive and destructive interferences).
Solve sound problems related to speed of sound in air and airs temperature.
Solve problems related to wavelength, frequency, period, and speed using the formula card.
Solve problems related to Hookes law.


Standard 4 — Optics
Light is an amazing phenomenon that defies an easy description. Sometimes we describe light as a ray when we consider the straight path in which it travels; straight, that is, until it encounters an obstacle or a barrier between two different media. Sometimes we call light a wave when we study its frequency, amplitude, and interference patterns. Other times we call light a particle when we study its interaction with the electrons in an atom. When we say that light is a wave that requires no medium, or a particle that has no mass, we are using terms that defy logic. Light is so interesting it requires its own special area of physics, which we call optics.Conceptual StrandUnderstanding optics is accomplished by investigating the behavior and laws of light.Guiding QuestionHow do the properties and behavior of light relate to the basic principles of optics?
Course Level Expectation
Describe the characteristics of the electromagnetic spectrum.
Investigate the interaction of light waves.
Explore the optics of lenses.
Analyze the optics of mirrors.
Investigate the phenomenon of color.
State Performance Indicator
Distinguish among the various categories of the electromagnetic spectrum.
Explain polarization of light.
Solve problems related to Snells law.
Given a drawing of a laboratory optics bench with a singular lens; choose the measurements that will enable the calculation of focal length.
Identify the properties of light related to reflection, refraction, diffraction, and interference of light waves.
Using light ray diagrams, identify the path of light using a convex lens, a concave lens, a plane mirror, a concave mirror and a convex mirror.

Electricity and Magnetism

Standard 5 — Electricity and Magnetism
Near the middle of the 19th century, Scottish physicist James Clerk-Maxwell proved that magnetic and electric fields were different aspects of the same field. Maxwell also proved that the behavior of light evolved naturally from this theory and predicted its absolute velocity. The study of Electromagnetism is another very broad topic within physics. Forces that hold molecules together, how our cell phones work, and the nature of electricity are all described by electromagnetic theory. Conceptual StrandElectric change is the fundamental quantity that underlies electricity and magnetism.Guiding QuestionHow does an electric charge produce electric and magnetic fields?
Course Level Expectation
Examine the properties of electric forces, electric charges, and electric fields.
Explore the flow of charge and electric currents.
Investigate Ohm's law.
Compare and contrast series and parallel circuits.
Analyze schematic diagrams.
Understand magnetic poles, magnetic fields, and investigate electromagnetic induction.
Understand that moving charges give rise to magnetism.
State Performance Indicator
Predict and sketch electric fields, given scenarios of charged particles.
Solve electricity problems using Ohms law formula.
Identify circuits as series or parallel.
Solve electricity problems related to voltage, current, and resistance.
Given a diagram of charged particles, sketch arrows that represent repulsion and attraction.
Solve problems related to Coulombs law of electrostatics.
Identify components of series and parallel circuits.

Nuclear Science

Standard 6 — Nuclear Science
Nuclear physics is the study of the behavior of matter and forces and fields within the nucleus of an atom. You may have visited or read about nuclear power plants. We all feel the warmth from the sun on summer day. Most of us have had an X-ray photograph take of our teeth at the dentist. Could a fusion reactor power us out of the solar system or provide the world with a clean, infinite supply of electricity? The study of nuclear physics explains the immense energies and forces than can cause devastation or provide solutions to global energy needs.Conceptual StrandNuclear physics can be better understood with a deeper understanding of particle physics.Guiding QuestionHow is the investigation of nuclear particles related to a better understanding of nuclear physics?
Course Level Expectation
Investigate the properties and structure of the atom.
Investigate properties of the quantum theory.
Explore the dynamics of the nucleus: radioactivity, radiocarbon/uranium dating, and half-life.
Compare and contrast nuclear fission and nuclear fusion.
State Performance Indicator
Write and balance nuclear reaction equations.
Solve half-life problems using the formula card.
Solve problems related to radiocarbon dating.
Describe the properties of coherent and incoherent light.
Identify parts of an atom (protons, electrons, neutrons, nucleus, and electron cloud).
Describe and identify the three basic forms of radioactivity (alpha particles, beta particles, and gamma rays)
Identify nuclear reactions given descriptions of the reactions.
Complete nuclear reaction equations related to neutron bombardment, beta and alpha emission, transmutation, fusion, fission, and chain reactions.
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