University of Maryland



Physics 161 Syllabus Summer I ‘03

General Physics: Mechanics and Particle Dynamics


Dr. Elena Gortcheva  

Office: Physics 1208


Office Hours: Tu. and F. after class or by appointment.


Important Dates

First class: Monday, June 2nd
Exam 1: Friday, June 13th
Exam 2: Friday, June 27th
July 4th: Friday, no class
Last class: Thursday, July 10th
Final Exam: Friday, July 11th

Curtis Vinson - TA 

Email: cvinson at



Meeting Times
Lecture: MTuWThF 09:30-10:50 in Physics Room 1402
Discussion: MW 11:00-12:00 (same room)




Required:   Serway and Beichner, Physics for Scientists and Engineers (Saunders College Publishing, 2000), Fifth Edition, Vol. 1. Also the Study Guide and Student Solutions Manual to Accompany Serway's Physics for Scientists and Engineers, by Serway, is recommended as a useful study aid, especially for problem solving.

Optional:   For math background: Mathematical Methods for Introductory Physics with Calculus, by R. Davidson, presents a mini-course of the math you ought to already know for this course. But Appendix B of Serway Vol.I, also gives a comprehensive summary of the same material.


Math 141 is a prerequisite for this course. Physics 161 will make extensive use of calculus (derivatives and integrals) and takes it for granted that you already have a facility with algebra and trigonometry. If in doubt, please peruse Appendix B of the text. If the contents scare you, ask for help -- early! (Don't wait until the first exam is at hand.)


Homework will be assigned approximately twice per week for a total of about 10 assignments. Late homework will NOT be accepted. Along with representing a reasonable portion of the total grade (30% - see the section on grading below), homework will prove invaluable in learning the material and preparing for exams. The only way to achieve mastery of the subject and problem solving skills is through practice and more practice working problems. In addition to problems, homework sets will contain a reading assignment to be completed before the material is covered in class. Doing the homework is an essential part of learning physics.  You must make sure you are learning the exercises, and not simply copying the answers or formulas.  Cheating will ultimately lead to your downfall on the exams – just do the homework, so you’ll learn to do the problems on the exams.

We want you to be using the homework to build an understanding, and we'll assess it accordingly.  Answers alone, without explanation, will receive no credit.  (Of course, the explanation may well be expressed in mathematics.)  However, evidence of an effort to refine your everyday thinking, even without an answer, will receive at least partial credit.


You will be given a brief quiz at the beginning of some discussion section (once a week) – the quiz will typically involve working one or two problems that are similar to the homework assignment.   

Quizzes will also occasionally be given at the beginning of lecture.  This serves as a tool to check your current state of knowledge.


There will be two midterm examinations during regular class hours and one final exam on July 11 from 9:30-11:30. Exams will be closed book, with no crib sheets allowed, although a formula sheet will be supplied with the exam. Calculators may be used. Expect problems that make you think, not problems that ask you to follow recipes.  The best way to prepare for exams is to stay with the course, "refining your everyday thinking" all along the way, rather than cramming to memorize equations at the last minute. Reasoning and accompanying work will count more than the final numerical answer. If you have a valid excuse for missing an exam see me to arrange what to do about it, beforehand if at all possible. Ex post facto (after the fact) excuses will require validation. Reasons for absence from an exam must be in accordance with university policy and required documentation provided. When appropriate, makeup exams for approved absences should be scheduled well in advance.


The course grade will be determined from homework, quizzes, midterm exams, and final exam in the following way:





Exam 1


Exam 2





        Course Outline.

Physics 161 develops the laws of motion, force, and energy and the principles of mechanics, momentum, collisions, rotation, and gravity. The course will cover chapters 1 – 11, and 14 of Serway and Beichner and any supplemental information provided in class. Given that the class spans six weeks, this amounts to approximately two chapters per week. Because of the intensive nature of summer courses it is especially important that you keep up with the reading. It will be expected that you review the material before coming to class. We will be covering the material rather quickly so do not fall behind.


        General Guidelines

Read the book! Especially important to read the material before the lectures.

Do the homework! To make the most of the homework each student should set the text aside, sit down with a blank sheet of paper, and try to solve all of the homework problems after he is familiar with the text, but before he looks at answers or solutions. In the first pass, make a list of your difficulties, if any. Then consult the textbook to see what you were missing. When you think you know enough, try again to complete all of the problems without the textbook. Solving homework problems is one of the best ways to learn the material. Perhaps the most important skill you should learn from this course is the ability to solve problems.

Ask questions in class. Do not fall behind!  If you find yourself in trouble, seek help.  Contact the instructor or the TA.  Attend the discussion sections and ask questions, or go to office hours.  Don’t wait until just before the exam! This is especially important due to the pace of summer classes!


Go to Main Page Physics 161 Summer I ’03


Last modified May 28, 2003.
Questions or comments contact Dr. Elena Gortcheva: