Conceptual Physics

Conceptual Physics

[Note: New editions of this text are published every few years with only slight changes made in each new edition. I wrote the original review from the 1985 and 1993 editions, but the book is now in its twelfth edition (2014 for the hardcover book). Over the years this has come to be commonly used as a college text, so prices for current editions can run over $200 for a hardcover book. Paperback editions are less expensive, and you might also look for older or used editions.]

Conceptual Physics is an award-winning physics text that is highly recommended for homeschoolers. The Colfax's wrote in Homeschooling for Excellence, that this book "...was less comprehensive than we would have liked but more accessible than anything else we could locate" (p.89). It is written as a college text but can be used at high school level. It does not require a background in higher math for understanding, although some algebra is required. Author Paul Hewitt writes about physics in clear, non-mathematical language understandable to those lacking a science background. Parents might even read the book and adapt the information to fit all ages.

Each chapter has a section called "Home Activities," which describes fairly simple lab/experiment activities that can easily be done at home without fancy equipment. Using these activities can make this a complete lab course. A separate lab manual offers more challenging lab activities. However, if you use the "Home Activities" in the text to create your own labs, the lab manual should not be essential.

Topics covered are mechanics, properties of matter, heat, sound, electricity and magnetism, atomic and nuclear physics, and relativity and astrophysics. This course is adequate for non-science majors but insufficient for physics majors and those who will major in other areas of science because it is not based on the use of calculus. The publisher tells us that the text can be used for Advanced Placement Physics B.

I originally reviewed and recommended the 1985 edition. The 1993 edition has at least one significant change. It includes an additional paragraph and cartoon drawing explaining that "facts are revisable data." This is a significant philosophical statement that denies the existence of absolutes—a philosophical statement that has huge implications. I assume that statement remains in current editions, but I still recommend the book. However, this definition is worth a serious discussion rather than unquestioning acceptance.

There is also an instructor's manual that includes answers along with teaching information.

Pricing Information

When comparison prices appear, please keep in mind that they are subject to change. Click on links where available to verify price accuracy.

Conceptual Physics (11th Edition)

Conceptual Physics (11th Edition)
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Instant Key

  • Learning Environment: group or one-on-one
  • Grade Level: grades 9-12
  • Educational Methods: traditional activity pages or exercises, hands-on
  • Educational Approaches: Charlotte Mason, classical, eclectic, unschooling or relaxed homeschooling
  • Religious Perspective: secular

Publisher's Info

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