Principles of Physics I Syllabus


Somewhere, on a dark and stormy night, a driver slams on his brakes to avoid a fallen tree. The road is slippery, and the car goes into a skid. Luckily, the driver avoids serious injury, but he or she will never forget the experience. You can look at that experience and others like it in three different ways. It can be viewed in terms of:

  1. The detailed conversational description of the physical situation: the wheels locked and sliding on a slippery surface
  2. The “seat of the pants” sensation of forces acting on the driver
  3. The basic laws of physics

Physics 121 is not just a course about equations. It is about training your mind to combine intuition and past experience with mathematics to understand the fundamental laws of nature. The goal is to combine what your body understands about acceleration, force, etc., with these other two descriptions of the same phenomenon. Interpreting graphs will help to form a bridge between what your body “knows” and what your mind can tell you.

Higher levels of thinking involve developing equations based on the laws of physics. Using these equations allows you to make quantitative predictions. Once you obtain a bridge between what you know by experience and what the graphs and mathematics say, then you understand physics. If you neglect any one of these three realities, then that which is learned here will not produce fundamental and lasting changes in your thought processes. In summary: Why should you take this course? Because it will change the way you think!

What You Should Already Know

  1. Algebra

    Do you feel comfortable solving an equation for an unknown?

  2. Trigonometry

    Do you know what sin θ, cos θ, and tan θ mean?

  3. Calculus

    Do you know what the terms derivative and integral mean?

    Can you take derivatives of y = xn, where n = 1, 2, 3, etc.

    Can you take a derivative of y = sinkx or y = coskx?

    Can you perform an integral of xn dx?

    If not, you should learn these skills before proceeding.

Course Outcomes

With the successful completion of course requirements, the student will be able to do the following:

  1. Explain the following fundamental principles of physics: Newton’s Law of motion, conservation of mechanical energy, conservation of momentum, and conservation of angular momentum.
  2. Apply the principles of Newton’s Law of motion, conservation of mechanical energy, conservation of momentum, and conservation of angular momentum mathematically (including calculus) to solve problems.

Course Structure

Course Description

This course is the first semester of the calculus-based Principles of Physics sequence. It is designed for students majoring in physics, engineering, chemistry, and mathematics. It centers on mechanics, the study of forces and motion as described through Newton’s three laws of motion and the concept of energy.

This area of study is the foundation upon which nearly all science and technology is built. We use Newton’s laws to design cars, airplanes, bridges, etc. Understanding the relationship between electricity and magnetism, thermodynamics, and all other areas of physics (and technology) depends on a firm understanding of the topics presented in this course.

Learning Model Architecture

The course follows a weekly cycle of Prepare, Teach One Another, and Ponder and Prove activities.

You will prepare for each week by reading the textbook, reviewing sample exercises, and answering practice problems using the calculations learned.

You will teach one another as you work in groups to perform simulations and complete group exercises. You will also attend online class meetings with your instructor, or watch the recording of the meeting.

You will ponder and prove what you learn each week by completing individual exercises and taking three exams.

Online Class Meeting

There will be an online meeting each week where you will meet with your instructor and other classmates to expand on principles being covered that week. Your instructor will provide information about the day and time the Online Class Meeting is held each week. A link to the meeting room will be available in the Online Class Meeting page.

Time Commitment

This three-credit course is rigorous. Over 14 weeks, you will be expected to devote an average of 9–12 hours per week in order to complete your assignments. Some weeks require a little more work, some weeks a little less.

Required Materials


Title: Physics for Scientists and Engineers, A Strategic Approach, (4th ed. Pearson/Addison Wesley) Randall D. Knight

ISBN: 13: 978-013408149-6

Special Note: The corresponding student workbook and Mastering Physics software are NOT required for the course.

Price: Compare prices for your textbooks through the University Store Price Comparison site. They will show you all of the options from the University Store, including a digital version, plus several online purchase options to help you find the best price.


Keep this textbook if you plan on taking PH 123, PH 220 and/or PH 223. Only a portion will be used this semester, and the remaining portions will be studied in more advanced classes.

Other Materials

  1. Calculator: A simple scientific calculator is needed. It would be helpful to have a calculator that stores functions, plots curves, and solves quadratic equations, but you can probably get along without these features.
  2. Microphone: A headset combo, or a microphone for your computer. You will also need sufficient Internet bandwidth for audio communications during the online meetings. A webcam for online meetings may be helpful, but it is not necessary.
  3. Computer



Letter Grade Grading Scale
A 93% - 100%
A- 90% - 92%
B+ 87% - 89%
B 83% - 86%
B- 80% - 82%
C+ 77% - 79%
C 73% - 76%
C- 70% - 72%
D+ 67% - 69%
D 63% - 66%
D- 60% - 62%
F 59% - 0%

Grade Weighting

Due Dates

Due dates are visible in the Course Summary at the bottom of this page and in the I-Learn calendar. Assignments are due within the week in which they are assigned with the following exceptions:

Late Work

As a sign of professionalism and respect, students should complete their work on time. A 10% reduction in the score will be automatically be applied as a late penalty for each day an assignment is late. Assignments are not accepted more than a week late. This does not apply to exams since they are not accepted late. There are no make-up exams.



All students may arrange for tutoring through the Academic Support Center, which is dedicated to assisting online and campus students in their coursework. This is a free service for BYU-I students. To arrange a tutor, follow these steps:

  1. Navigate to the Academic Support Center webpage. (The link to this webpage is also available in the Student Resources module in the course.)
  2. Click on the large text near the top of the page that reads, “Request a Tutor.”
  3. Follow the prompts to arrange a tutor.

Online Student Support Center

The Online Student Support Center is available to help students with problems in online courses. If you have technical difficulties or notice a problem in the course, please report this problem to the Online Student Support Center.

Online Student Support Center Contact Information

Phone: (208) 496-1800
Toll-free Phone: (866) 672-2984
Text Messaging: (855) 808-7102
Live Chat: Use the link below to access the Live Chat feature
Website: Online Student Support Center

Please visit the University Policies page to read BYU-Idaho’s policies on student honor, students with disabilities, sexual harassment, and complaints and grievances.