Only the best connections

26th May 1995 at 01:00
HEINEMANN ADVANCED SCIENCE: PHYSICS. By Patrick Fullick. Heinemann Pounds 18.99 - 0 435 57078 1. Age range 16 +

Patrick Fullick bucks the trend in A level textbooks with this approachable and user-friendly volume. What immediately stands out is its excellent use of colour: there are many varied and relevant pictures and colour-coded information and extension boxes.

The book is divided into six main sections and subsections emphasise the connections between topics. Each section begins with a "Section Focus" designed to fire the imagination, for example, the effect of alternating current on the heart or how gamma cameras work.

The layout is clear and the diagrams are of the kind you always wish you had time to draw. The explanations are of a very high quality with helpful examples and analogies: the human body plays a big part in mechanics and there is a good analogy between energy and money.

Each subsection has a very clear summary, while worked examples and questions give a chance to apply principles to a wide variety of situations, for example, stunt motorcyclists and whether a cat can resolve two white mice at 20 metres.

Longer structured questions allow for a more thorough testing of knowledge. Although numerical answers are given, it would have been nice to have answers to selected questions, such as how a Mexican jumping bean works. The poor quality of explanations on exam papers has been a recurring theme of examiners' reports in recent years. Students can find explanation one of the most difficult aspects of an exam question.

There is plenty of clear advice on mathematical topics throughout the book and the extension boxes include guidance on calculus.

At the end of each section a colour-coded Concept Map gives a clear overview of the connections between topics. The success of this may depend on the teacher's ability to use it, perhaps as a platform for revision or to encourage students to make their own maps.

Overall there is little fault to be found with this book. The holistic approach will certainly appeal to the Balanced Science generation of students who make connections between electricity inside and outside the body, and treat the eye as a natural transducer. Today's students are sophisticated consumers of information and this is a book to satisfy their appetite.

Helen Reynolds is head of the physics at Gosford Hill School, Kidlington, Oxfordshire.

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