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   Minnesota Academic Standards - Science (2009-04): Some Complaints

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   The April 2009 draft seems to remove the spelling errors in the
November 2008 draft.  Other problems (bad usage, bad grammar, bad style,
bad science) remain.

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   The authors of this document seem to have a real knack for composing 
ambiguous run-on sentences whose meaning may have been obvious to the
authors, but which is thoroughly unclear to others.  In some cases,
adding a comma or two would help, but often a complete re-write is

   As in previous drafts, serial comma use is not consistent.  I still
claim that "a, b, and c" is better than "a, b and c", because it's more
helpful to the reader, but I see no good reason to use both schemes in
one document.

   In a field where one may wish to use "impact" in its original sense, it
seems at best unproductive to use it where "affect" or "effect" would be

   "People" are repeatedly (and awkwardly) referred to as "humans", as
if a student might be confused about the species involved if the term
"people" were used.  (As if, for example, the Department of Education
were inhabited by Klingons or Gorn.  Hmmm.  This could explain the poor
English language skills...)

   As in previous drafts, the authors seem hopelessly unable construct a
sentence with a verb which matches the subject, if that subject is
plural, and if there's a preposition anywhere in the vicinity.  It's
easy to see why elementary school is no longer called "grammar school".

   It seems to have been decided to capitalize Earth, but not Moon, Sun,
or other bodies whose names would seem to a casual observer to be all
equally proper nouns.  I suspect that one can find a style guide to
support any position on this question, but common sense and consistency
would seem to agree with the IAU Style Manual (1989), which offers this

      [...] The names of planets, bright-stars and other individual
      objects should be spelt with initial capital letters, but
      adjectival forms should begin with a small letter, as in Jupiter,
      jovian satellites; the Galaxy, galactic coordinates.

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      Content Deficiencies

   Engineering seems to have displaced what little History of Science
material might have been present in earlier drafts.  (I'd point out the
one obvious exception, but I'd hate to draw attention to it, and risk
promoting its deletion.)  Harvard has a whole Department of History of
Science, but we, apparently, don't need any because we have "Current and
emerging technologies".

   Little has changed in this draft to correct previously reported
content deficiencies.  Some examples of some potentially valuable but
currently missing content follow:

   Buoyancy - floating versus sinking.  The term "density" appears
almost exclusively as a property of a substance, with no practical
application of the concept.  Why _does_ a boat float?  Archimedes may or
may not have shouted, "I have found it!", but 2000-plus years later, the
Land of 10000 Lakes can't seem to find it using both hands.

   Rotational motion and torques are absent.  (Torques always were, I

   Electrical switches.  Simple electrical circuits are mentioned in
grade four.  Switches are never mentioned.  The circuit found in almost
every home which lets two switches control one light fixture is never
mentioned.  There must be at least two dozen electromechanical relays
in my car, controlling all sorts of things, but there's not one in here.

   The relation between simple electrical switching circuits and logic
functions (or binary numbers) is absent.  The simplest fundamentals of
the operation of a digital computer are absent.  Perhaps digital
computers are not really important in the modern world.

   Mechanical stress and strain are not mentioned.

   Projectile motion and simple harmonic motion may be mentioned
obliquely, but never by those names.

   Speaking of periodic motion, the terms "fundamental", "harmonic", and
"overtone" are absent.

   Electrolytes, electrolysis, oxidation, reduction are not mentioned. 
Valence electrons are, but not plain valence (or, of course, oxidation

   The electromagnetic spectrum gets mentioned (Benchmark 9P.,
but the use of characteristic spectra (emission, infrared absorption,
...) of substances for chemical analysis is more likely to be seen on a
"CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" television program than in school. 
Even the connection between the "expansion of the universe" and the
"Doppler shift of light" has been reduced to something implicit
(Benchmark, apparently rendering unnecessary any
understanding how characteristic emission spectra of substances make it
possible to measure that shift, and hence that expansion.

   Chromatography gets no more mention than spectroscopy, taking with it
any hope of DNA analysis (with its attendant polymerase chain reaction
technology) or a discussion of a genome.  (Here, the students could
watch "CSI" or "NCIS", or "House, M.D.", where they might also gain some
feeble understanding of nuclear magnetic resonance as applied to medical

   Consistent with the near-total absence of mathematics, exponential
growth (like population growth) and decay (like radioactive decay, or
the discharge of a capacitor ("What's that?")) are not mentioned.

   The coverage of cell biology and evolution seems extensive,
especially when compared with, say, electricity.  Which one will be more
useful in real life for most students?  And how much more useful?

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      High Standards?

   Much talk about "high standards" seems to be circulating these days. 
Where are they?

      Atoms and molecules first appear in grade seven?
      Pressure first appears in grade eight?

   Children who own bicycles with pneumatic tires (not an emerging
technology) tend to encounter the concept of pressure in the real world
(and even measure it) long before grade eight.

   Below is a list of some fairly common terms, concepts, topics,
devices, and so on.  If students master all the material in this
document, what will they know about any of them?

      Aircraft flight
      Alpha, beta, gamma rays/particles (and their friends)
      Avogadro's number
      Bernoulli effect
      Bicycle, sprockets and chain
      Buoyancy -- float or sink -- boat, balloon, anything
      Anode, cathode
      Barometer (aneroid, liquid)
      Capacitor, inductor
      Celsius, Fahrenheit
      Centrifugal or centripetal force or acceleration
      Compass (gyroscopic, magnetic), dipping needle
      Data storage: magnetic disk and tape, optical disk, flash EEPROM
      Digital logic (electric, electronic, fluidic, ...)
      Dipole (electric, magnetic)
      Distillation, fractional distillation
      Electrolyte, electrolysis
      Electric battery
      Electric fuse or circuit breaker
      Electric relay
      Electric switch
      Evaporative cooling
      Exponential growth and decay, half-life
      Extremophile organism
      Fluorescent lamp (how it works)
      Fuel cell
      Gas discharge lamp (neon sign, xenon flash, plasma display)
      Genetic code, DNA/RNA base pairs, A, C, G, T (and sometimes U?)
      Gravitational lens
      Gravity wave
      Incandescent lamp
      Index of refraction
      Infrared remote control
      Internal combustion engine (diesel, gasoline, ...)
      Light-emitting diode (or any kind of diode)
      Liquid crystal, liquid crystal display
      Mechanical advantage
      Medical imaging, CAT, [N]MRI, X-ray
      Microscope, telescope
      Nuclear magnetic resonance
      Nutrition  (Or is that a phy-ed/health topic?)
      Optics, thin lens law, real image, virtual image
      Oxidation, reduction, redox
      Perception of color  (RGB)
      Phosphorescence (glow-in-the-dark toys)
      Phonograph, or any kind of sound recording/reproduction device
      Photovoltaic or photoresistive cell
      Photodiode or phototransistor
      Photography, chemical or electronic
      Polymer  (One word: "Plastics")
      Prism, diffraction grating
      Psychology, senses, perception in general
      Radio, Television, AM, FM, digital
      Rocket, thrust, reaction (force), space flight
      Spectroscopy (any kind)
      Chromatography (any kind)
      Refrigerator, heat pump
      Satellite, or any other spacecraft
      Scientific notation
      Simple machines (lever, gears, pulleys, inclined plane...)
      Solar flare
      Solar wind
      Steam engine (piston)
      Turbine engine (any kind: steam, jet, ...)
      Torque wrench
      Vacuum tube  (Quick, before they're all gone.)
      Cathode ray tube  (Quick, before they're all gone.)
      Vernier scale
      Vertebrate, invertebrate
      Wave polarization (linear, circular)
      Wheel and axle
      Xerography (laser printer)

   Look around any home, vehicle, or workplace, and try to list the
everyday appliances, devices, tools, you-name-them of modern life.  Then
try to find the places in this document where the basic principles of
their operation are explained.  The first task, I predict, will be much
easier than the second one.

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      Standard Headings

  Substrand 1: The Practice of Science
    Standard 1. Understandings about science

  Substrand 2: The Practice of Engineering
    Standard 1. Understandings about engineering

What are "Understandings about" science and engineering?  Are they
anything like facts?  Perhaps facts which should be understood?

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   Sort objects into two groups: those that are found in nature and
   those that are human made.
   For example: Cars, pencils, trees, rocks.

Are we trying not to give away the correct answer here?  Would grouping
the examples as, say, "trees and rocks; cars and pencils" reveal too
much if a kindergarten student got hold of the document?

   Objects can be described in terms of the materials they are made of
   and their physical properties.

Whose "their"?  Are the physical properties of the objects, or of the

   Weather can be described in measurable quantities and changes from
   day to day and with the seasons.

"Weather can be described in [...] changes from day to day and with the
seasons"?  Clarity is cheap.  "Weather can be described in measurable
quantities.  It changes from day to day, and with the seasons."

   Identify the sun as a source of heat and light.
   For example: Record the time of day when the sun shines into
   different locations of the school and note patterns.

"[D]ifferent locations of the school"?  Is the school wandering from one
location to another?  Inserting a strategic comma might make it sound
less as if we were looking for when the sun shines into note patterns
(presumably where the sheet music is kept).  Clarity is cheap.  "Record
the time of day when the sun shines into different places in the school.
Look for patterns in these times and places."

   Differentiate between living and nonliving things.
   For example: Sort live organisms (or pictures of organisms) into
   groups of those that grow and reproduce and need air, food and water,
   and those that don't.

In the example, which would be the live organisms "that don't"? 
(Perhaps the pictures?)

   Natural systems have many components that interact to maintain the
   living system.

What is "the living system"?  Does it extend across "[n]atural systems"?

   Observe a natural system or its model and identify living and
   nonliving components in that system.
   For example: A wetland, prairie, garden or aquarium.

Should we assume that these are examples of natural systems, or would
these be the living and nonliving components in some larger natural
system?  A comma after "model" might help the reader.

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   Scientists work as individuals and groups to investigate the natural
   world, emphasizing evidence and communicating with others.

"Scientists work as [...] groups"?  Perhaps, "Scientists work as
individuals or in groups [...]"?  See Standard for guidance.

   Recognize that describing things as accurately as possible is
   important in science because it enables people to compare their
   observations with those of others.

People can't compare sloppy descriptions of observations?  I don't see
why not.  I'll admit that an accurate description is better than an
inaccurate description, because, in science, truth is better than
fiction.  I don't see what we gain by dragging "others" into the

   Designed and natural systems exist in the world. These systems are
   made up of components that act within a system and interact with
   other systems.

What is interacting with what here?  Components and systems?  Systems
and other systems?  I'm (still) confused.

   Earth materials include solid rocks, sand, soil and water. These
   materials have different observable physical properties that make
   them useful.

Are these "Earth materials" anything like materials "found in nature"? 
(Or is "found in nature" a Kindergarten-only concept?)  Is "Earth
material" defined anywhere?  Is cotton or wood or whalebone an "Earth

See Standard

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   Engineering design is the process of identifying problems and
   devising a product or solution.

Perhaps, "Engineering design is the process of identifying a problem,
and devising a product or process to solve that problem."

   Explain how engineered or designed items from everyday life benefit

And ignore how they might harm people?

   Objects can be described in terms of the materials they are made of
   and their physical properties.

Whose "their"?  Are those "physical properties" of the objects or of the

   Observe, record and recognize that water can be a solid or a liquid
   and can change from one state to another and that the amount of water
   stays the same when it melts and freezes.

"Observe, record and recognize"?  There's barely anything to observe.
What's not to recognize?

Who defines "amount of water"?  How much ice do you get when you freeze
a cup (or a liter) of water?  Its _volume_ certainly changes when it
freezes or thaws.  Given no useful guidance, which property of a sample
of water, do you think, a grade-two student (or teacher) is more likely
to consider, its mass or its volume?

Water boils, too.  Perhaps some grade-two students have even observed
this phenomenon while on a field trip to a kitchen.

   The motion of an object can be described by a change in its position
   over time.

Should this say "described by" or "defined as"?  What's the actual idea

   The motion of an object can be changed by push or pull forces.

What are "push or pull forces"?  Are there other kinds of forces? 
Perhaps, "The motion of an object can be changed by forces -- pushes or

   Describe how push and pull forces can make objects move.

Or _stop_?  (Again, "push and pull forces"?)

See Standard

   Measure, record and describe weather conditions using common tools.

Saying "tools" instead of "measuring instruments" seems more confusing
than helpful here.  Which "common tools" would be used to measure wind
speed or direction?  Screwdrivers?  Hammers?  Anemometers?  What's the
definition of a "common tool"?

I recently talked with an apparently normal five-year-old (pre-K) girl
who brought the word "instrument" into our conversation, referring to a
musical instrument.  I find it difficult to believe that the term
"measuring instrument" is beyond the power of typical grade-two students
(or, I'd like to think, of grade-two teachers).  (That girl does reside
in Kansas, and, for all I know, the pre-K educational standards there
might be much higher than those for grade two here.)

In the November 2008 draft, measuring "instruments" had infiltrated so
far down as Benchmark  Now they appear for the first time
(disguised as "measurement instruments") in Benchmark  Who
else thinks that this was _not_ an improvement?

See Standard

   Recognize that plants need space, water, food and air and they
   fulfill these needs in different ways.

Clarity is cheap.  "Recognize that plants need space, water, food, and
air, and that they fulfill these needs in different ways."

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   Generate questions that can be answered when scientific knowledge is
   combined with knowledge gained from one's own observations or

What, exactly, is "scientific knowledge", and how does it differ from
"one's own observations"?  Is "scientific knowledge" something some dead
guy figured out hundreds of years ago, or what?  (Of course, the phrase
"dead guy" here was not meant to exclude any female humans of any age or
background, especially not members of Minnesota American Indian tribes
or communities.)

   Recognize that when a science investigation is done the way it was
   done before, even in a different place, a similar result is expected.

Like measuring atmospheric pressure at the sea shore and then on a
mountain top?  Bringing in "different place" while leaving out "similar
conditions" seems more misleading than helpful.  I'd worry more about
who's doing the job than where it is done.

   Use tools, including rulers, thermometers, magnifiers and simple
   balances, to improve observations and keep a record of the
   observations made.

"Use tools [...] to [...] keep a record [...]"?  Clarity is cheap.  "Use
measuring instruments, like rulers, thermometers, and simple balances,
to make measurements.  Use other tools, like magnifiers, to improve
observations.  Keep a record of your measurements and other

What happened to time?

Clearer and better: "Measure various quantities using appropriate
measuring instruments.  Use other tools, like magnifiers, to improve
observations.  Keep a record of your measurements and other
observations.  For example: Length or distance (ruler or tape measure),
volume (measuring cup or graduated cylinder), weight or mass (spring
scale or balance), time (clock or stopwatch), temperature

   Explain the relationship between the pitch of a sound, the rate of
   vibration of the source and factors that affect pitch.

What _is_ "the relationship between the pitch of a sound [...] and
factors that affect pitch"?  Clarity is cheap.  "Explain the
relationship between the pitch of a sound and the rate of vibration of
the source.  List some factors that affect the pitch of a sound source." 
Is there any reason to discuss a "rate of vibration" without mentioning

   For example: Changing the length of a string that is plucked changes
   the pitch.

I'd probably mention changing the tension of a string, too.  I believe
that many musical instruments (tools) use this technique.  Even ones
which let the user change the (effective) length of a string.

   Another example: Compare materials according to their ability to
   conduct or produce sound.

What properties of a _material_ affect its ability to conduct sound?
What properties of a _material_ affect its ability to produce sound? 
Perhaps I'm easily baffled, but I don't get the point of this example.

   Explain how shadows can form in various ways.

There's more than one way to make a shadow?  Pray, tell.  (I'd like to
think that I could pass grade three if I were to re-do it, but material
like this leads me to wonder.)

   Describe how light travels in a straight line until it is absorbed,
   redirected, reflected or allowed to pass through an object.
   For example: Use a flashlight, mirrors and water to demonstrate
   reflection and bending of light.

So, we're discussing the bending of light using terms like "redirected"
and "reflected", but _not_ "refracted"?  What happens to light when it
passes through an object?

   Observe and describe the daily and seasonal changes in the position
   of the sun and compare observations.

Compare observations of what with what?

   Objects in the solar system are seen from Earth as points of light
   with distinctive patterns of motion.

AIIEEE!!!  Have the Moon and Sun left the Solar System?  Are _they_ seen
from Earth as "points of light"?  _Stars_ (other than our Sun), which
are outside our Solar System, _are_ seen from Earth as points of light. 
Large objects in the Solar System are seen as non-point objects.  The
rings of Saturn and storms on Jupiter have been observed from Earth for
hundreds of years, and even, more recently, photographed.  This would
not be possible with objects seen as "points of light".  (Did I not
cover this material adequately in 2003?  I never realized how many wrong
ways there might be to explain these concepts.)  Note that galaxies and
nebulae (which are also outside our Solar System) are seen from Earth as
non-point objects, too, because they're vastly bigger than those measly
distant stars.  

   Demonstrate how a large light source at a great distance looks like a
   small light that is much closer.
   For example: Car headlights at a distance look small compared to when
   they are close.

Does this phenomenon affect objects other than light sources?  Why limit
the Benchmark to the special case of a "light source", rather than using
a special case (like a light source) to illustrate the general case (any
old object)?

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   Describe the positive and negative impacts that the designed world
   has on the natural world as more and more engineered products and
   services are created and used.

"Describe the beneficial and harmful effects [...]."  Or does the K-12
curriculum _require_ diluting the original meaning of "impact" to the
point of triviality?

   Engineers design, create and develop structures, processes and
   systems that are intended to improve society and may make humans more

The evidence often appears slim, but some people claim that computer
programs are also engineered.  It might be enlightening to compare the
number of software engineers with the number of mechanical engineers,
and then decide if it makes more sense to omit one of them or the other.

That "to improve society" fluff seems a bit value-rich to me.  Some
engineers design devices simply because someone else is willing to pay
them to do it.  Whether any particular weapon of war serves "to improve
society" seems to me to be open to argument.  Note that "devices" might
well be added to that list of things being designed.

   Engineering design is the process of identifying problems, developing
   multiple solutions, selecting the best possible solution, and
   building the product.

Engineering design does not always involve "developing multiple
solutions".  Its result is not always a "product".  Note that even
Standard refers to "processes".

   Identify and investigate a design solution and describe how it was
   used to solve an everyday problem.

Is a "design solution" "used to solve an everyday problem", or does it
just solve the thing?

   For example: Investigate different varieties of construction tools.

What are "construction tools"?  The opposite of _destruction_ tools? 
Into which category does a big hammer fit?

   Test and evaluate solutions, including advantages and disadvantages
   of the engineering solution, and communicate the results effectively.

Do you mean "including" or "considering"?  As is often the case, it
probably makes more sense here to refer to a "design" rather than a
"solution".  Proposed designs often do not really solve the original
problem.  Perhaps, "Test and evaluate different designs intended to
solve a particular problem.  Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of
the different designs.  Communicate the results of your evaluation
effectively."  (Am I the only one who smiles every time I see a phrase
like "communicate effectively" in this document?)

   The needs of any society influence the technologies that are
   developed and how they are used.

The desires of individuals are not entirely without effect in this, too.

   Measure temperature, volume, weight and length using appropriate
   tools and units.

Again, "measuring instruments" would convey more than "tools" here.  Is
there any reason not to include "time" in this list?

   Solids, liquids and gases are states of matter that have unique

No, "solid", "liquid", and "gas", are states of matter which have
different properties.  "Solids" are materials which are in the solid
state, and so on.  It may be stretching things to say "unique" here. 
Gases may be unique in their compressibility, but doesn't that make
solids and liquids non-unique in their incompressibility?

   Distinguish between solids, liquids and gases in terms of shape and
   For example: Water changes shape depending on the shape of its

How does one distinguish among solids, liquids, and gases in terms of
volume?  What does that mean?  Solids are bigger than liquids?  (Or is
it the other way around?)  What _is_ the point here?  I can understand
the example, but the Benchmark seems to be nonsense.  While it ignored
gases, Benchmark in the September 2008 draft was at least
clear: "Distinguish between solids that have a definite shape and
liquids that take the shape of their container."  (More commas and a
"that"-to-"which" transformation might help here, too.)

   Describe how the states of matter change as a result of heating and

Some people (humans) would say that the states of matter remain solid,
liquid, and gas under all conditions likely to be studied in grade four. 
Perhaps, "Describe how the state of matter of an object may change when
the object is heated or cooled."  Perhaps "material" rather than

   Compare materials that are conductors and insulators of heat and/or
   For example: Glass conducts heat well, but is a poor conductor of

Glass conducts heat _well_?  Compared with _what_?  Let's run a simple
experiment.  I'll hold a glass rod, and you hold a similar metal rod. 
Copper, let's say.  (Bare-handed, of course.)  We each stick one end of
our rods into a gas flame.  Who do you think will be the first to drop
his rod?  I'd be willing to risk a small sum that it'll be the fellow
whose rod has a thermal conductivity more than 300 times that of the
glass one.  (If I could afford a diamond rod instead of copper, ...)

Benchmark in the September 2008 draft talked about sorting
objects according to properties like "ease of conducting heat".  Perhaps
material like this should be explored by the authors of this document
before they try to inflict too much confusion on unsuspecting students.

   Describe and classify minerals based on their physical properties.
   For example: Streak, luster, hardness, reaction to vinegar.

Would it be too much to say something like "reaction to an acid (such as
vinegar)"?  Do we really need to wait until grade eight to say "acid"?

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   Science is a way of knowing about the natural world, is done by
   individuals and groups, and is characterized by empirical criteria,
   logical argument and skeptical review.

I'd probably say "learning" instead of "knowing".  I'm sure that I'd
argue with "empirical criteria" if I knew what they were.  What are

   Explain why evidence, clear communication, accurate record keeping,
   replication by others, and openness to scrutiny are an essential part
   of doing science.

They're all one part?  Try: "[...] are essential parts of doing
science."  (Obviously, "clear communication" isn't very important

   Conduct or critique an experiment, noting when the experiment might
   not be fair because some of the things that might change the outcome
   are not kept the same, or that the experiment is not repeated enough
   times to provide valid results.

It's not a universally held opinion these days, but in the old days,
"critique" was a noun.  See, for example:

      critique, criticize

      Professor Richard Cody writes occasional critiques of movies for
      The Hampshire Gazette. (noun, meaning critical review) 

      I asked her to criticize my latest poem. (offer critical remarks

(Bah!  What do those clowns at Amherst know?)

   Use appropriate tools and techniques in gathering, analyzing and
   interpreting data.
   For example: Spring scale, metric measurements, tables,
   mean/median/range, spreadsheets, and appropriate graphs.

Does "tools" here really mean "measuring instruments" (again)?  Why
"appropriate graphs" in the example, but not "appropriate" anything
else?  Are "metric measurements" always "appropriate"?  One especially
useful technique not mentioned here would be simply making repeated
measurements of the same thing.  (Do we know what an average is in grade

   An object's motion is affected by forces and can be described by the
   object's speed and the direction it is moving.

An object's _velocity_ "can be described by the object's speed and the
direction it is moving."  An object's _motion_ may involve quantities
more interesting than its velocity.

   Identify the force that starts something moving or changes its speed
   or direction of motion.
   For example: Friction slows down a moving skateboard.

I suppose that it would be useless to point out that to start something
moving (or to stop it) involves changing its speed.  One advantage of
general principles is that employing them can reduce the time and space
wasted by listing all the special cases.

   Demonstrate that a greater force on an object can produce a greater
   change in motion.

It _can_?  When _doesn't_ it?

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   Apply and document an engineering design process that includes
   identifying criteria and constraints, making representations, testing
   and evaluation, and refining the design as needed to construct a
   product or system that solves a problem.

Are these "criteria" anything like design requirements?  What is "making
representations"?  Do you mean saying things like, "The bridge will
hold", or making a model of a machine or structure, or what?

   Designed and natural systems exist in the world.  These systems
   consist of components that act within the system and interact with
   other systems.

See Standard  I still can't tell what interacts with what in
these sentences.  Components with systems?

   Distinguish between open and closed systems.
   For example: Kinetic and potential energy are conserved in a closed
   system, but are not conserved when frictional heating is considered. 

Huh?  So, in a closed system, there is never any frictional heating?  To
a casual reader, this would appear to be nonsense.  I've tried hard to
imagine what might be the actual point here, but without success. 
Perhaps it would be easier if actual definitions were provided for terms
like "open system" and "closed system", rather than confusing (or
nonsensical) examples, illustrative of I-don't-know-what.

   Current and emerging technologies have enabled humans to develop and
   use models to understand and communicate how natural and designed
   systems work and interact.

And _old_ technologies did _not_ do that?  Am I the only one to find
this use of "humans" instead of "people" unnatural, awkward, and
pointless?  Is there some reason for it?

   Determine and use appropriate safe procedures, tools, measurements,
   graphs and mathematical analyses to describe and investigate natural
   and designed systems in a physical science context. 

What would appropriate _unsafe_ procedures be?  Are "tools" unrelated to
"measurements"?  ("Measuring instruments" wouldn't be, I claim.)  Are
"graphs" _not_ "mathematical analyses"?  

   Demonstrate the conversion of units within the Systeme Internationale
   (SI, or metric) and estimate the magnitude of common objects and
   quantities using metric units.

If it's not possible to get the accents right in "Le Système
International d'Unites", then it might be wise to stick with the good
old "International System of Units".  What does "or metric" refer to? 
(A noun might help.)

Conversion of units _within_ SI, but _not_ between SI and more familiar
units seems to me to be a remarkably sterile exercise.

   Explain density, dissolving, compression, diffusion and thermal 
   expansion using the particle model of matter.

"Explain density [...]"?  What's this "density" thing?  When did we
learn that?  "Explain [...] compression [...]" of what?  Solids?  Gases? 
What _about_ compression?  Should we perhaps know what these things are
before we try to explain them?  Students in grade six are expected to be
able to "explain density [...] using the particle model of matter", but
are not expected to know how density determines whether a boat floats? 
How many PhD's in Education does it take to balance this pedagogical
pyramid on its point?

   Identify evidence of physical changes, including changing phase or
   shape, and dissolving in other materials.

Could this be any less clear?  "Identify evidence of physical changes"?
You mean _observe_ them?  "in other materials"?  Other than _what_?

   Describe how mass is conserved during a physical change in a closed
   For example: The mass of an ice cube does not change when it melts.

Compare this clear, valid statement with its sloppy counterpart in

   Use the relationship between heat and the motion and arrangement of
   particles in solids, liquids and gases to explain melting, freezing,
   boiling and evaporation.

Did anyone else notice that we have two names here for a change from
liquid to gas, but not one for a change from gas to liquid? 
"Condensation", I believe it's called.  (At least it was in grade four,

   The motion of an object can be described in terms of position,
   direction and speed.

Direction of what?  Its position?  Its speed?  Motion involves a change
in position.  Mixing "position" and "motion" in a statement without
mentioning "change" seems to be asking for confusion.  Or exhibiting
it.  Either seems undesirable.

   Measure and calculate the speed of an object that is traveling in a
   straight line.

"Measure and calculate [...]"?  Does this mean anything at all like
"Determine the speed of an object that is traveling in a straight line,
by measuring the time it takes to travel a measured distance, and
calculating the speed from those measured values."?  Of course, _I_
would normally throw something like "v=s/t" into such a discussion, but
I've learned that "=" is not available in science in Minnesota.

   Graph an object's position as a function of time and an object's
   speed as a function of time for an object traveling in a straight
   line and use the graphs to describe the object's motion. 

Clarity is cheap.  "For an object traveling in a straight line, graph
the object's position as a function of time, and its speed as a function
of time.  Explain how these graphs describe the object's motion."  An
example might be helpful: "For example: How is the object's speed
represented on both graphs?"

Is this what all that mess in Standard and Benchmark
was trying to lead up to?  Standards and were bad
enough.  This seems to be worse.  (It's remarkable that as the students
advance, the explanations become less clear.)

If we're talking only straight-line motion here, then any discussion of
"direction" may do about as much harm as good.  Note that the material
for grade five (Standard, Benchmark may be more
complex, if less quantitative, than this material for grade six.  If the
goal is to get quantitative about a subset of material which has already
been covered in a more qualitative way, then it might make some sense to
say so.

Motion in a straight line can be very simple or very complex.  "x = c"
or "x = vt + c" would be toward the simple end of the spectrum, while,
say, "x = A (sin wt)", while very interesting, is probably too complex
for grade six, yet it only begins to hint at some of the potential
complexity here.  If all you wish to cover are cases like constant speed
or constant acceleration, then it would make some sense to say so, and
"straight line" does not do the job.

   Forces have magnitude and direction and govern the motion of objects.

"[G]overn" may be a bit strong, but it's probably vague enough to slip
through.  (Unlike "determine" in Standard

And if you live to reach high-school physics, you may hear the term
"vector" in school.

   Distinguish between mass and weight.

Any motivation for this?  Any example of where the distinction might be

   Use wave properties of light to explain reflection, refraction and
   the color spectrum.

"[...] explain [...] refraction [...]"?  What's this "refraction" thing?

   Describe how energy is transferred in conduction, convection and

This would be _heat_ energy?  Why not _say_ "heat"?

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

   Science is a way of knowing about the natural world that is
   characterized by empirical criteria, logical argument and skeptical

Is it science or is it the natural world which is so characterized?

See Standard  I'm still mystified by "empirical criteria".

   Understand that prior expectations create bias when conducting
   scientific investigations.
   For example: Students continue to think that air is not matter, even
   though they have evidence from investigations.

They _do_ create bias, or they _can_ create bias?  Similar problem in
the example.

   Plan and conduct a controlled experiment to test a hypothesis about a
   relationship between two variables, ensuring that one variable is
   systematically manipulated, the other is measured and recorded, and
   any other variables are kept the same (controlled).
   For example: The effect of various factors on the production of
   carbon dioxide by plants.

Of the two variables, only one is "recorded"?

Is "various factors" anyone's idea of a useful _example_?  An example of
this "example" might be useful.

See Standard

   Use maps, satellite images and other data sets to describe patterns
   and make predictions about natural systems in a life science context.
   For example: Use online data sets to compare wildlife populations or
   water quality in regions of Minnesota.

Perhaps, "find patterns" or "investigate patterns" instead of "describe

   Determine and use appropriate safety procedures, tools, measurements,
   graphs and mathematical analyses to describe and investigate natural
   and designed systems in a life science context.

While "appropriate safety procedures" may be a step up from "appropriate
safe procedures", the complaints about Benchmark apply here,

   Recognize that a chemical equation describes a reaction where pure
   substances change to produce one or more different substances whose
   properties are different from the original substance(s).

Why are the reactants "pure", but the products are not?  Why are the
reactants "substances" and "substance(s)", while the product(s) are "one
or more different substances"?

   Recognize that all cells do not look alike and that specialized cells
   in multicellular organisms are organized into tissues and organs that
   perform specialized functions.
   For example: Nerve cells and skin cells do not look the same because
   they are part of different organs and have different functions.

The statements "all cells do not look alike" and "not all cells look
alike" really do mean different things, and you (still) have the wrong
one here.

Do nerve and skin cells look different "because they are part of
different organs and have different functions", or do they look
different because they _are_ different, and when you build organs from
them, the _organs_ look different because the cells look different (and
function differently)?  Which is the horse, and which is the cart?

   Use the presence of the cell wall and chloroplasts to distinguish
   between plant and animal cells.
   For example: Compare microscopic views of plant cells and animal

How important is it _not_ to say which cell type (plant or animal)
features a cell wall and chloroplasts?  I say that any student who can
wade through this morass/document deserves all the facts he might
possibly glean from it.

   Compare and contrast predator/prey, parasite/host and
   producer/consumer/decomposer relationships.

I still claim that this "producer/consumer/decomposer" classification
scheme is too consumer-centric.

   Recognize that cells contain genes and that each gene carries a
   single unit of information that either alone, or with other genes,
   determines the inherited traits of an organism.

Define "single unit of information".  Is a DNA base pair larger or
smaller than a gene?

   Recognize that in asexually reproducing organisms all the genes come
   from a single parent, and that in sexually reproducing organisms half
   of the genes come from each parent.

So, an X chromosome contains the same number of genes as a Y chromosome?
Perhaps, "roughly half"?

   Use internal and external anatomical structures to compare and infer
   relationships between living organisms as well as those in the fossil

Clarity is cheap.  "Compare the internal and external anatomical
structures of different living organisms.  Do the same for living
organisms and those in the fossil record.  Where justified, infer
relationships between organisms."

   Recognize that variation exists in every population and describe how
   a variation can help or hinder an organisms ability to survive.

And reproduce?  Reproduction is important, right?

   Recognize that extinction is a common event and it can occur when the
   environment changes and an organism's ability to adapt is
   insufficient to allow its survival.

How common is "common"?

   Human beings are constantly interacting with other organisms that
   cause disease.

Perhaps, "always" instead of "constantly".  Given the existence of
infectious disease, I'd say that we interact with them more at some
times than at others, that is, _variably_, not "constantly".

   Explain how viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites may infect the
   human body and interfere with normal body functions.

Reconcile Standard ("organisms that cause disease") and
Benchmark ("viruses") with Standard ("All organisms
are composed of one or more cells").  Last I heard, viruses were not
"composed of one or more cells".

   Recognize that a microorganism can cause specific diseases and that
   there are a variety of medicines available that can be used to combat
   a given microorganism.

Really?  Might "a microorganism" cause only _one_ specific disease?  Is
there not a single microorganism anywhere which is susceptible to only
one drug?  Or did you mean something more like, "There are many
different drugs which can be used to fight different microorganisms."? 
(Do we need to say "medicine" to keep our schools "drug-free"?)

Some people (humans) might argue that "a variety" is singular, so that
one should say "[...] that there is a variety of medicines available
[...]".  But those are people (humans) who can tell the difference
between the subject of a clause and the object of a preposition.

   Recognize that the human immune system protects against microscopic
   organisms and foreign substances that enter from outside the body and
   against some cancer cells that arise from within.

Is it worth mentioning that this protection is imperfect, so that those
drugs mentioned in Benchmark are of more than academic

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See Standard

   Evaluate the reasoning in arguments in which fact and opinion are
   intermingled or when conclusions do not follow logically from the
   evidence given.
   For example: Evaluate the use of pH in advertising products related
   to body care or gardening.

Should I infer from this example that any talk about soil pH is all just
more gardening pseudoscience?  If so, then perhaps someone should notify
the Soil Testing Laboratory at the University of Minnesota.

   Science and engineering operate in the context of society and both
   influence and are influenced by this context.

Do they influence and are they influenced by society or "by this
context"?  Which is clearer?

   Explain how constraints like scientific laws and engineering
   principles, as well as economic, political, social, and ethical
   expectations, must be taken into account in designing engineering
   solutions or conducting scientific investigations.

If you can find a real-life engineer who would use the term
"constraints" to describe "scientific laws and engineering principles",
then I'd like to talk to her.  I know some real-life engineers, and
every one I've asked finds this risible. In engineering, the term
"constraint" has a specific meaning, and this isn't it. 

How does an "engineering solution" differ from any other kind of

How would taking political expectations into account improve any
scientific inquiry?  Isn't this exactly the kind of thing for which
various government agencies have been castigated (and rightfully so) in
recent years?

Is there any valuable content anywhere in this Benchmark?  I see only
some politico-babble nonsense.

See Standard

See Benchmark

See Benchmark

   Pure substances can be identified by properties which are independent
   of the sample of the substance and can be explained by a model of
   matter that is composed of small particles.

Are the substances or their properties explained?  Is it the model or
the matter which is composed of small particles?  Clarity is cheap. 
"Pure substances can be identified by properties which are independent
of the sample of the substance.  These properties can be explained by a
model of matter in which matter is composed of small particles." 
Perhaps, if we're talking about a pure substance, "small, identical

   Distinguish between a mixture and a pure substance and use physical
   properties including color, solubility, density, melting point and
   boiling point to separate mixtures and identify pure substances.

I hear that magnetic separation is popular in the northern part of the
state.  At least that's what I learned from the model taconite mine at
the State Fair in a previous era.  This omission in a document which
refers to "renewable [...] material resources that are found in
Minnesota", "Banded iron formations as found in Minnesota's Iron Range",
and "how mineral [...] resources are [...] processed" fairly cries out
for an explanation.

   Identify evidence of chemical changes, including color change,
   generation of a gas, solid formation and temperature change.

Are these things _always_ evidence of a chemical change?  If I pull a 
supercooled container of Coca-Cola from my kitchen freezer (hardly
exotic apparatus) and open it, I'd expect to see carbon dioxide gas
bubbles in abundance, the formation of solid ice crystals, and some
degree of apparent color change.  And, while I haven't measured it, I'd
bet a small sum on a temperature change, too.  Seems like pretty good
evidence for a chemical change by these criteria.  What could it be?

   Use the particle model of matter to explain how mass is conserved
   during physical and chemical changes in a closed system.

How is an atomic model superior to any other model in this regard?

Considering that "atom" appears in grade seven, do we really need to
avoid the term "atomic" until high-school Chemistry?  For that matter,
should "atom" appear before grade seven?

   Recognize that acids are compounds whose properties include a sour
   taste, characteristic color changes with litmus and other acid/base
   indicators, and the tendency to react with bases to produce a salt
   and water.

Not much of a description there of a base.

I like indicators, but don't schools have pH meters these days?  Perhaps
in the "9C" material?

   Explain how seismic waves transfer energy through the Earth and
   across its surfaces.

How many surfaces does the Earth have?  In Benchmark, it seems
to have only one ("[...] heating of the Earth's surface [...]").

   Explain the role of weathering, erosion and glacial activity in
   shaping Minnesota's current landscape.

They all share one role?  "Explain" it, or describe it?

   Describe how the composition and structure of the Earth's atmosphere
   affects energy absorption, climate and distribution of particulates
   and gases.
   For example: Certain gases contribute to the greenhouse effect.

Yes, how does they do that?  (Whew.  I'd started to think that all these
education professionals might have, at long last, learned to win at
"Find the Subject", but I see now that I had little to fear.)

This may be the best example yet of how omitting the pre-conjunction
comma in a series can increase ambiguity.  Are the items listed here:
   1. energy absorption
   2. climate
   3. distribution of particulates and gases
   1. energy absorption
   2. climate of particulates  [A mysterious concept]
   3. distribution of particulates
   4. gases
   1. energy absorption of particulates
   2. climate of particulates  [A mysterious concept]
   3. distribution of particulates
   4. gases
   1. energy absorption of particulates and gases
   2. climate of particulates and gases
   3. distribution of particulates and gases
or what?  I'd offer a clearer replacement, but I can't discern the
original intent.

Great example, too.  "Certain gases" really nails it down.  And we know
about this "greenhouse effect" from where, exactly?

   The water cycle is an open system with many inputs.

Open?  Because of what, comets delivering vast quantities of water to
"the Earth system"?  No roof over the sky?  Who drew these system
boundaries, and where?  Some people (humans) might not call the water
cycle a "system" in the first place, preferring instead to think of the
relevant system as comprising the Earth's atmosphere and hydrosphere,
and the water cycle acting within that system.  (Especially when some
humans start casually throwing around terms like "open system".)  What
are these "many inputs"  Sunbeams?  Water molecules?

   Recognize that gravity exists between any two objects and describe
   how the mass and distance between objects affects the force of

Yes, how does they affect that force?  "[G]ravity exists between any two
objects"?  Really?  I thought that gravity existed everywhere.  Which
"the mass"?  The mass "between objects"?  Which "force of gravity"? 
Clarity is cheap.  "Recognize that every object exerts a gravitational
force on every other object.  The magnitude of the force depends on the
masses of the objects, and on the distance between them."  I suppose
that it would be pointless to mention that the force is always
attractive, and is directed along the line connecting the objects
(strictly speaking, connecting their centers of gravity).  I assume that
there's no chance at all of getting the actual relationship (yet another
of those pesky equations) in here.

   Compare and contrast the planets and the moons of our solar system in
   terms of their size, location and composition.

They all share one "size, location and composition"?  I thought that
each had its own.  Clarity is cheap.  "Compare and contrast the sizes,
locations, and compositions of the planets and moons in our Solar
System."  (Or omit "their".)

   Use the predictability of the motions of the Earth, sun and moon to
   explain day length, the phases of the moon, and eclipses.

Does "the predictability" itself explain anything?  Are there any
significant motions of the Sun which are considered in grade eight? 
Perhaps, "Use the predictable motions of the Earth and Moon to explain
day length, the phases of the moon, and eclipses."  One could drag the
Sun into the discussion, if desired: "Use the predictable motions of the
Earth around its own axis and around the Sun, and of the Moon around the
Earth, to explain day length, the phases of the Moon, and eclipses."

_Years_ are not important enough to justify including them in this

   Describe how mineral and fossil fuel resources have formed over
   millions of years, and explain why these resources are finite and
   non-renewable over human time frames.

How long are "human time frames"?  Past?  Future?  (You _know_ how long
we'll last?)  It might be less presumptuous to consider current (and
expected future) consumption rates with the corresponding production
rates.  Or find a better-defined time range for comparison.

   Recognize that land and water use practices in specific areas affect
   natural processes and that natural processes interfere and interact
   with human systems.
   For example: Levees change the natural flooding process of a river.
   Another example: Agricultural runoff joins the water cycle and
   influences natural systems far from the source.

What does "in specific areas" add here?

"Agricultural runoff joins the water cycle"?  When did it _leave_ the
water cycle?  It's a _cycle_, right?  Which part of agricultural runoff
don't we like?  Chemicals?  Silt?  And when it comes time for
evaporation (which _is_ part of the water cycle, isn't it?), doesn't all
the non-water in the runoff get distilled out, so that it doesn't really
circulate in the water cycle?  It's the _water_ cycle, not the
water-and-chemicals-and-soil cycle, after all.  Perhaps, "Chemicals in
agricultural runoff can travel far in streams, rivers, and oceans,
influencing natural systems far from the source."  There may be a way to
jam the (square-peg) water cycle into this (round-hole) agricultural
runoff discussion, but I don't see it.

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See Standard

   Understand that scientists conduct investigations for a variety of
   reasons: to discover new aspects of the natural world, to explain
   recently observed phenomena, to test the conclusions of prior
   investigations, or to test the predictions of current theories.

Is that an exhaustive list, or just some examples?  Are all unexplained
phenomena "recently observed"?  I seem to recall examples of
investigations trying to explain phenomena which were observed long ago,
too, but still not explained.

   Explain how societal and scientific ethics impact research practices.
   For example: Research involving human subjects may be conducted only
   with the informed consent of the subjects.

Does that sort of impact leave a crater?

   Identify sources of bias and how bias might influence the direction
   of research and the interpretation of data.
   For example: How funding of research can influence questions studied,
   procedures used, analysis of data, and communication of results.

"Identify [...] how bias might influence [...]"?  Clarity is cheap. 
"Identify sources of bias, and explain how bias might influence the
direction of research and the interpretation of data."

   Describe how changes in scientific knowledge generally occur in
   incremental steps that include and build on earlier knowledge.

How general is this "generally"?  What were the incremental steps
between the geocentric and heliocentric models of the Solar System?
How does "scientific knowledge" differ from ordinary knowledge?  Is it
anything like the way knowledge differs from unfounded belief?

   Engineering is a way of addressing human needs by applying science
   concepts and mathematical techniques to develop new products, tools,
   processes and systems.

Define "needs".  Is every desire a "need"?  Is engineering used only for
"needs"?  Tools are not "products"?

   Understand that engineering designs and products must be continually
   checked and critiqued for alternatives, risks, costs and benefits, so
   that subsequent designs are refined and improved.
   For example: If the price of an essential raw material changes, the
   product design may need to be changed.

What are "engineering designs and products"?

"[C]ontinually"?  Really?  After the bridge is built, how much more
engineering does that design require?  The example may apply to a
mass-produced product, not to a one-time product, but this is not made
explicit.  Certainly, when a new product is being designed, and it's
related to an existing product, then it's wise to revisit the
assumptions made in the older design, but that's a long way from
"continually" doing anything.

In many industries in the real world, a distinction is made between
new-product design engineering and continuation engineering.  The latter
often applies to high-value durable goods, and may involve developing
product improvements and accessories, or solving problems in the
original design.

Engineering as described in this document differs so greatly from
engineering in the real world that I'm not sure how much to try to
change in a Benchmark like this.  A Web search for "industrial
engineering", for example, would reveal yet more discord.

   Explain and give examples of how, in the design of a device or
   process, engineers consider how it is to be manufactured, operated,
   maintained, replaced and disposed of.

How _does_ one manufacture or dispose of a process?

   Engineering design is an analytical and creative process of devising
   a product or solution to meet a need or solve a specific problem.

What's the difference between a product and a solution?  It seems like
only a minute ago (Standard, engineering outputs included
"products, [...] processes, and systems".  And, again, these may be
_intended_ to be solutions, but may fail.

   Develop possible solutions to an engineering problem and evaluate
   them using conceptual, physical and mathematical models to determine
   the extent to which the solutions meet the design specifications.
   For example: Develop a prototype to test the quality, efficiency and
   productivity of a product.

Would it be worth mentioning the constraints here, or should I infer
that they're included in "the design specifications"?


See Standard and Standard


See Standard

   Communicate, justify and defend the procedures and results of a
   scientific inquiry or engineering design project using verbal,
   graphic, quantitative, virtual or written means.

What are "virtual means"?  Things like means which are not really means?
Perhaps something to do with a computer?  Does "verbal" here mean
"verbal" or "oral"?  ("[W]ritten" is non-verbal?)

   Determine and use appropriate safety procedures, tools, computers and
   measurement instruments in science and engineering contexts.
   For example: Consideration of chemical and biological hazards in the

So now, "tools" and "measurement instruments" are different things? 
Clearly, this is an unfamiliar concept, as we've waited until grade nine
(and up) to introduce it, so I'll note that most people (humans) would
say "measuring instruments", for the same reason that most people
(humans) would say "musical instruments" instead of "music instruments". 
(Of course most people would usually say "people" instead of "humans",
too, so I can see why this suggestion might be futile.)

   Explain how the rearrangement of atoms in a chemical reaction
   illustrates the law of conservation of mass.

I'd probably say "is consistent with", rather than "illustrates".

   Forces and object mass determine the motion of an object.

Is "object mass" some new type of mass, perhaps the opposite of "subject
mass"?  I can produce two objects of identical mass which experience the
same forces, but which do not move the same way, so "determine" seems a
bit strong.  Trying to express "F=ma" in some vague, simplified way for
this standard is probably futile.  Why not simply say something like
the following?  "The net force (F) on an object, its mass (m), and its
acceleration (a) are related by F=ma."

   Recognize that the inertia of an object causes it to resist changes
   in motion.

If "inertia" is _defined_ as resistance to a change in motion, then
"causes" may not be the best way to express this relationship.  How is
"inertia" defined here?

   Explain and calculate the acceleration of an object subjected to a
   set of forces in one dimension (F=ma).

Was acceleration defined anywhere, or is the first thing we do with it
to "[e]xplain and calculate" one?  "Explain and calculate"?  how does
one "[e]xplain" an acceleration?  Perhaps, "Use "F=ma" to determine the
acceleration of an object acted on by a set of forces in one dimension."

It might be too great a leap, but why not something more general, like,
say, "Apply "F=ma" to a one-dimensional situation to determine the
unknown quantity, given the other two.  For example: Determine the
acceleration of an object, given its mass and the forces acting on it. 
Another example: Determine the net force on an object, given its mass
and acceleration."?  (Who can guess the third possibility?)

While the appearance of an equation in this document is certainly a
welcome (if revolutionary) change, it is unique, so that it's not clear
whether one might expect a student to be able to describe in a general
way what a change in the value one of its variables would imply about the
others.  Perhaps that's what "Explain" was hinting at, but I can't tell. 
If so, then there's likely to be some clear, explicit way to say so.

Wow.  "F=ma".  Amazing scientific breakthrough.  Now that the Great
Equal-Sign Barrier has been broken, assuming that it was not
unintentional, might there be another place (or two or three) somewhere
in this tome to squeeze in another (or several)?

   Demonstrate that whenever one object exerts force on another, a force
   equal in magnitude and opposite in direction is exerted by the second
   object back on the first object.

How does one "[d]emonstrate" anything "whenever"?  Wouldn't that take a
very long time?

Newton's laws are great things, even when Newton's name is absent from
the discussion, but, other than Newton, what's the connection between
this Benchmark and this Standard?  Where's the "Motion"?  Substrand
x.2.2.x.x is "Motion", not "Statics", not "Forces".  Perhaps "Forces and
Motion" would be a better choice for the title.

   Use the law of gravitation to describe and calculate the attraction
   between massive objects based on the distance between them.
   For example: Calculate the weight of a person on different planets in
   the solar system.

Which "the law of gravitation" is this?  Newton's Law of Universal
Gravitation, perhaps?  Could we scrape together the funds to buy another
equal sign here?  "Use the law [...] to describe"?  I thought that this
_law_ described this attraction.  Or is this another cryptic way to ask
the student to interpret an equation, as in Benchmark

Note that, again, there's nothing explicit about "Motion" in this law,
this Benchmark, or this example.

If we're working exclusively in SI units, and we're not learning to
convert between SI and foot-slug-second units, how many students will
know their own weights (or masses)?  (At least now, since grade six,
they may fairly be expected to know the difference.)

By "a person", do you mean "a human"?

   Identify the energy forms and explain the transfers of energy
   involved in the operation of common devices.
   For example: Light bulbs, electric motors, automobiles or bicycles.

Many modern electric lighting devices are not really bulbous, making
"Light bulbs" a misnomer.  "Electric lights" would be more accurate. 
"Electric lights of different types" would be more interesting, and
perhaps more educational.

As I have previously complained, the principles of operation of many
"common devices" are not covered in this document.

   Calculate and explain the energy, work and power involved in energy
   transfers in a mechanical system.
   For example: Compare walking and running up or down steps.

"Calculate and explain" again.  Should "power" appear for the first time
in a Benchmark, not a Standard?

   Describe how energy is transferred through sound waves and how pitch
   and loudness are related to wave properties of amplitude and

Some people (humans) might arrange "amplitude and wavelength" as
"wavelength and amplitude", when suggesting a correspondence with "pitch
and loudness".  Some might even prefer "frequency" to "wavelength" in
this context.

   Explain and calculate current, voltage and resistance, and describe
   energy transfers in simple electric circuits.

"Explain and calculate" confuses me just as much as "Calculate and
explain".  Again, if we're talking about Ohm's law -- Yes, some of us
dare to speak its name -- might we, perhaps, mention this relationship
somewhere, even though doing so would risk the inclusion of yet another
pernicious equation?  We seem to be talking here about "energy
transfers", but I see even less here on how to calculate power than I do
of Ohm's law.  Is any discussion of power to be strictly qualitative? 
So, a student in grade nine is not expected to understand how "60W" and
"120V" on a light bulb (antique, incandescent, of course) might be
combined to reveal anything?  (And this is not considered pathetic?)

   Describe how an electric current produces a magnetic force, and how
   this interaction is used in motors and electromagnets to produce
   mechanical energy.

"Describe how", or "admit that"?  What kind of description would be
expected here?  (I assume that the student will not be expected to drag
in Special Relativity on his own.)  If "Understand that" is confined to
Standards, and excluded from Benchmarks, then perhaps the existence of
an electromagnet might better be moved into a Standard, and one less
nebulous than this one.  It "produces a magnetic force" on what?  Would
it be impossible to say "magnetic field" here (which would actually be
correct)?  What "interaction"?  What interacts with what?  There's a
limit to how much content can be sucked out of a discussion like this
without leaving only a confusing mess, and that limit seems to have been
exceeded here.

   Use the idea that small amounts of matter are transformed into large
   amounts of energy in nuclear reactions to compare fission and fusion
   in terms of beginning and end products and the amount of energy
   For example: The fusion of hydrogen produces energy in the sun.
   Another example: The use of chain reactions in nuclear reactors.

What are "beginning [...] products"?  Aren't products _produced_ (after
the beginning)?  The term "reactant" does appear only a little later
(Benchmark, so why not use it here? 

Is there some secret rule demanding that a Benchmark be a single, run-on
sentence where antecedents are required to be ambiguous?  Clarity is
cheap.  "Nuclear reactions, such as fission and fusion, can transform
small amounts of matter into large amounts of energy.  Analyze fission
and fusion reactions, considering the reactants, the products, and
energy."  Whether some of that should be in a Standard instead of a
Benchmark is beyond my competence to judge.

   Describe the trade-offs involved when technological developments
   impact the way we use energy, natural resources, or synthetic
   For example: Fluorescent light bulbs use less energy, but contain
   toxic mercury

Fluorescent light _bulbs_ must be pretty rare.  Fluorescent light
_tubes_ are pretty common.  "Fluorescent lights" would be simple and
accurate.  Now that we've decided what they are, they "use less energy"
than _what_?  Limelight?  High-pressure sodium lamps?

How does "toxic mercury" differ from ordinary mercury?

The example lacks a terminating period (".").  (Perhaps it was knocked
away by the impact of some technological development or other.)

   The relationships among earthquakes, mountains, volcanoes, fossil
   deposits, rock layers and ocean features provide evidence for the
   theory of plate tectonics.

What are "ocean features"?  Icebergs?  Waves?  Shorelines?  Fish?

   Use relative dating techniques to explain how the structure of the
   Earth and life on Earth has changed over short and long periods of
   For example: Use radiometric dating and fossils to correlate rock
   sequences from separate locations.

Yes, how has they changed?  When do these subject-verb errors stop being
funny, and become pathetic?  (2003, I claim.)

Do these "relative dating techniques" threaten to corrupt the gene pool?
("Hey, cousin!  Want to go out to dinner and a movie?")

   Compare and contrast the energy sources of the Earth, including the
   sun, the decay of radioactive isotopes and gravitational energy.

In what sense is "gravitational energy" an "energy [source] of the
Earth"?  What is "gravitational energy"?  Gravitational _potential_
energy?  How would this be liberated?

   Global climate is determined by distribution of energy from the sun
   at the Earth's surface.

   Explain how Earth's rotation, ocean currents, configuration of
   mountain ranges, and composition of the atmosphere influence the
   absorption and distribution of energy, which contributes to global
   climatic patterns.

The Standard says that the climate is "determined" by the "distribution
of energy", as if nothing else matters, but the Benchmark suggests that
all these things merely "contribute" to "climatic patterns".

   Material in the Earth system cycles through different reservoirs, and
   is powered by the Earth's sources of energy.

"Material [...] is powered [...]"?  Is the material powered, or is the
cycling powered, or what?

   Trace the cyclical movement of carbon, oxygen and nitrogen through
   the lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere and biosphere.
   For example: The burning of fossil fuels contributes to the
   greenhouse effect.

Of what is this example an example?  The Standard and the Benchmark talk
about cycles.  Where's the cycle in this "example"?

   The big bang theory states that the universe expanded from a hot,
   dense chaotic mass, after which elements formed and clumped together
   to eventually form stars and galaxies.

Which "elements"?  Chemical elements?

   Explain how evidence is used to understand the composition, early
   history and expansion of the universe.
   For example: Doppler shift of light or cosmic background radiation.

Any old Doppler shift of light, or some particular Doppler shift of
light?  What's the "Doppler shift of [...] cosmic background radiation"? 
Clarity is cheap.  "For example: The Doppler shift of light from distant
stars.  Another example: The cosmic background radiation."

And, of course, we all know what a Doppler shift is, because it's
covered in the "9P" material?

   Explain how gravitational clumping leads to nuclear fusion, producing
   energy and the chemical elements of a star.

It _does_ lead, or it _can_ lead?  Are those clumping asteroids about to
become stars?  Is hydrogen one of "the chemical elements of a star"?  I
thought so.  Does nuclear fusion produce it?  I thought not.  Perhaps,
"Explain how gravitational clumping of a large mass of hydrogen can lead
to the creation of a star, with nuclear fusion producing energy while
also producing heavier elements."  (My astronomy is pretty weak, so this
may need some refinement, but it seems less defective than the

   Analyze the benefits, costs, risks and tradeoffs associated with
   natural hazards, including the selection of land use and engineering
   For example: Determining land use in floodplains and areas prone to

What are "tradeoffs", as opposed to, say, "benefits, costs, risks"?

   Recognize that the work of the cell is carried out primarily by
   proteins, most of which are enzymes, and that protein function
   depends on the amino acid sequence and the shape it takes as a
   consequence of the interactions between those amino acids.

In "the shape it takes", what is "it"?  "[P]rotein function"?  "[A]mino
acid sequence"?  Which amino acids are "those amino acids"?  Clarity is
cheap.  "Recognize that the work of a cell is performed primarily by
proteins, most of which are enzymes, and that the way a protein
functions depends on the sequence of its constituent amino acids, and on
the shape of the protein molecule, which depends on the interactions
between those amino acids."

   What's the conceptual difference between an "Understand that"
Standard and a "Recognize that" Benchmark?

   The interrelationship and interdependence of organisms generate
   dynamic biological communities in ecosystems.

I'd offer congratulations on getting the verb to agree with the subject
here, but all the evidence suggests that it was accidental (the
serendipitous result of "organisms" being plural).

   Explain how matter and energy in an ecosystem is transformed and
   transferred among organisms, and how energy is dissipated as heat
   into the environment.

Yes, how is they transformed and transferred?  I'd bet that if this had
been phrased as "in ecosystems", you could have gotten lucky here, too,
as in Standard

   Use the processes of mitosis and meiosis to explain the advantages
   and disadvantages of asexual and sexual reproduction.

I'd expect most students to be unable to "[u]se the [process] of
mitosis".  Perhaps, "Use the properties (of the processes) of mitosis
and meiosis to explain the advantages and disadvantages of asexual and
sexual reproduction."

   Explain how competition for finite resources and the changing
   environment promotes natural selection on offspring survival,
   depending on whether the offspring have characteristics that are
   advantageous or disadvantageous in the new environment.

Yes, explain how they does that.  (Or are we talking about the
"competition for [...] the changing environment"?  I assume not.)  Then,
please, explain how the "depending on" specific stuff fits into the
general statement.  An individual's fate will depend on its
characteristics.  What in this Benchmark is "depending on" anything
here?  Natural selection?  I'll guess that the intent was something like
this: "Explain how a changing environment and the competition for finite
resources drive natural selection, with the survival of different
offspring depending on their particular advantages and disadvantages in
the changed environment."

   Explain how genetic variation between two populations of a given
   species is due, in part, to different selective pressures acting
   independently on each population and how, over time, these
   differences can lead to the development of new species.

I suppose that I'm alone in believing that a comma after "population"
would make this easier to read.

   Describe the social, economic and ecological risks and benefits of
   biotechnology in agriculture and medicine.
   For example: Selective breeding, genetic engineering, and antibiotic
   development and use.

These examples are of "biotechnology", not of any "risks and benefits".

   Describe the social, economic and ecological risks and benefits of
   changing a natural ecosystem as a result of human activity.
   For example: Changing the temperature or composition of water, air or
   soil; altering populations and communities; developing artificial
   ecosystems; or changing the use of land or water.

These examples are of "activity", not of any "risks and benefits".

   Describe contributions from diverse cultures, including Minnesota
   American Indian tribes and communities, to the understanding of
   interactions among humans and living systems.
   For example: American Indian understanding of sustainable land use

How "diverse" were "Minnesota American Indian tribes and communities"? 
Does being different from Europeans make them "diverse"?  Is that the
new definition of "diverse"?

   Explain how environmental factors and personal decisions, such as
   water pollution, air quality and smoking affect personal and
   community health.

Why "water pollution" but "air quality"?  Wouldn't either "pollution" or
"quality" be better for both?  There should be a comma after "smoking",
the mate of the one after "decisions".  (And, of course, after "air
quality", but I'm picking my battles carefully now.)

   Recognize that a gene mutation in a cell can result in uncontrolled
   cell division called cancer and how exposure of cells to certain
   chemicals and radiation increases mutations and thus increases the
   chance of cancer.

   Perhaps, "chemicals or radiation"?  Or do you need both to cause
mutations?  And, of course, a comma after "called cancer" would help the

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      Benchmark 9C.
   Explain the political, societal, economic and environmental impact of
   chemical products and technologies.
   For example: Pollution effects, atmospheric changes, petroleum
   products, material use or waste disposal.

The current popularity of "impact" in phrases like "environmental
impact" implies neither correctness nor value.

      Standard 9C.1.3.4.x
   Physical and mathematical models are used to describe physical

      Benchmark 9C.
   Use significant figures and an understanding of accuracy and
   precision in scientific measurements to determine and express the
   uncertainty of a result.

This Benchmark appears to be useful, but how is it related to the

      Benchmark 9C.
   Determine the molar mass of a compound from its chemical formula and
   a table of atomic masses; convert the mass of a molecular substance
   to moles, number of particles, or volume of gas at standard
   temperature and pressure.

We'll never see Avogadro or his number mentioned here, will we?

      Benchmark 9C.
   Describe the dynamic process by which solutes dissolve in solvents
   and calculate concentrations, including percent concentration,
   molarity and parts per million.

Do "solutes [...] calculate concentrations", or might a comma (or a
period) make this easier to read?

And "calculate" _what_ "concentrations"?  From what?

Does "percent concentration" or "parts per million" imply "mass", or
should this (or something else) be explicit?  I'm pretty sure that I've
seen the phrase "percent by volume" used in real life.  (Possibly

      Benchmark 9C.
   Explain the role of solubility of solids, liquids and gases in
   natural and designed systems.
   For example: The presence of heavy metals in water and the
   Another example: Development and use of alloys.

Heavy metals are _dissolved_ in the atmosphere?  Anything other than

      Benchmark 9C.
   Describe the factors that affect the rate of a chemical reaction,
   including temperature, pressure, mixing, concentration, particle
   size, surface area and catalyst.

Does "particle size" do more than affect "surface area"?  Perhaps,
"presence of a catalyst".

      Standard 9C.2.1.4.x
   States of matter can be described in terms of motion of molecules.
   The properties and behavior of gases can be explained using the
   Kinetic Molecular Theory.

      Benchmark 9C.
   Use kinetic molecular theory to explain how changes in energy content
   affect the state of matter (solid, liquid and gaseous phases).

What's the difference between "the Kinetic Molecular Theory" and
"kinetic molecular theory"?

      Benchmark 9C.
   Explain changes in temperature, pressure, volume and number of
   particles of a gas in terms of the random motion of molecules in an
   ideal gas.

Explain _what_ changes?  Does this make any sense at all?  What is the
point?  Is this some well-disguised attempt to elicit an interpretation
of the ideal gas law, without, of course, providing the actual equation?

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      Benchmark 9P.
   Describe changes in society that have resulted from significant
   discoveries and advances in technology in physics.
   For example: Transistors, generators, radio/television, or microwave

The example lists technologies, not the "changes in society" discussed
in the Benchmark.

Is there any content in this document which explains how any of these
"significant discoveries and advances" actually works?

      Standard 9P.1.3.4.x
      Benchmark 9P.

See Standard 9C.1.3.4.x and Benchmark 9C.

      Standard 9P.2.2.1.x
   Forces and inertia determine the motion of objects.

"Forces" on what?  Whose "inertia"?  See Standard

      Benchmark 9P.
   Use vectors and free-body diagrams to describe force, position,
   velocity and acceleration of objects in two-dimensional space.

Are free-body diagrams used for anything other than forces?  Again, the
Substrand title "Motion" says nothing about forces.  This Benchmark
scrambles forces and motion under the heading of "vectors".  While
vectors are used for both, and "F" does equal "ma", some separation here
would be less confusing.

      Benchmark 9P.
   Apply Newton's three laws of motion to calculate and analyze the
   effect of forces and momentum on motion.

Is "calculate and analyze" better than "Explain and calculate"?  I don't
see how.  What is "the effect of [...] momentum on motion"?  Or was this
intended to be "the effect of forces on momentum and motion"?  Again,
this seems to be some cryptic way to ask the student to interpret some
equations or laws, but it's too cryptic for me.  

      Benchmark 9P.
   Use gravitational force to explain the motion of objects near Earth
   and in the universe.

Which motion of which objects in which circumstances, exactly?  The
universe is a big place.  Didn't Newton invent the calculus to do this? 
Didn't Einstein invent General Relativity to deal with "gravitational
force [...] in the universe"?  Is this Benchmark intended to ask
something of the student which might reasonably be expected?  If so,

      Standard 9P.2.2.2.x
   When objects change their motion or interact with other objects in
   the absence of frictional forces, the total amount of mechanical
   energy remains constant.

What sort of "interact[ion] with other objects" would _not_ cause them
to "change their motion"?

While I suppose that an argument could be made for it, attributing every
inelastic collision to "frictional forces" might require an unusually
broad definition of "frictional forces".

      Benchmark 9P.
   Explain and calculate the work, power, potential energy and kinetic
   energy involved in objects moving under the influence of gravity and
   other mechanical forces.

"Explain and calculate" again.

      Benchmark 9P.
   Describe and calculate the change in velocity for objects when forces
   are applied perpendicular to the direction of motion.
   For example: Objects in orbit

"Describe and calculate" again.

Note that for most "[o]bjects in orbit" (those not in perfectly circular
orbits), the gravitational force on the object is generally _not_
"perpendicular to the direction of [its] motion".

The example lacks a terminating period (".").

      Benchmark 9P.
   Use conservation of momentum and energy to analyze the elastic
   collision of two solid objects in one-dimensional motion.

That's "conservation of momentum" and "conservation of energy", right? 
Not "conservation of momentum" and "energy"?  Perhaps, "an elastic

Now that "momentum" has appeared (once), I suppose that there's no
chance of learning how a hammer works.  Too complex for pre-college?

      Standard 9P.2.3.1.x
   Sound waves are generated from mechanical oscillations of objects and
   travel through a medium.

Is "travel" a noun or a verb here?  Travel is broadening, but clarity is
cheap.  "Sound waves are generated by mechanical oscillations of an
object, and they travel through a medium."

      Benchmark 9P.
   Analyze the frequency, period and amplitude of an oscillatory system.
   For example: An ideal pendulum, a vibrating string, or a vibrating
   spring-and-mass system.

Standard 9P.2.3.1.x talks about sound waves.  What does a pendulum or a
vibrating spring-and-mass system have to do with sound waves?  Sound
waves and simple harmonic motion are not entirely unrelated, but they're
hardly equivalent, either.

"Analyze"?  What sort of analysis is expected here?  Frequency and
period are essentially equivalent, and for simple harmonic motion, they
are independent of the amplitude.  The frequency (or period) of "a
vibrating spring-and-mass system" is related to parameters like the mass
and spring constant, but we seem to have tossed Captain Hook and his law
out of this draft, so it's not clear to me what weapons remain with
which we can attack even a simple "oscillatory system".

Analysis of standing waves in a vibrating string is (still) much more
complicated than anyone here seems to realize.  A radio may make sound
waves, but it's not a simple "oscillatory system".

      Benchmark 9P.
   Describe how vibration of physical objects sets up transverse and
   longitudinal waves in gases, liquids and solid materials.

Transverse sound waves in gases?  In liquids?  Really?  Book those
tickets to Stockholm!  What is the shear modulus of air, anyway?

      Benchmark 9P.
   Explain how wave properties, such as interference, resonance,
   refraction and reflection, affect sound waves.

Wave properties _affect_ waves?  I think of wave _properties_ as things
like amplitude, speed, frequency, and wavelength.  Perhaps, "Give
examples showing how sound exhibits wave phenomena like interference,
resonance, refraction, and reflection."

      Benchmark 9P.
   Describe the Doppler effect changes that occur in an observed sound
   as a result of the motion of a source of the sound relative to a

"Describe", but not calculate?  This may be a good thing, because "the
motion of a source of the sound relative to a receiver" is not the
important parameter in the Doppler effect for sound, where motion with
respect to the medium (for both the source and the observer) is what
determines the result.

      Standard 9P.2.3.2.x
   Electrons respond to electric fields and voltages by moving through
   electrical circuits and this motion generates magnetic fields.

Electrons respond to electric fields.  They know nothing about voltages,
except as voltages are related to electric fields.

      Benchmark 9P.
   Explain why currents flow when free charges are placed in an
   electrical field, and how that forms the basis for electrical

Is an "electrical field" what most people (humans) (and the Standard)
call an "electric field"?

      Benchmark 9P.
   Explain and calculate the relationship of current, voltage,
   resistance and power in series and parallel circuits.

"[C]alculate the relationship"?

   For example: Determine the voltage between two points in a series
   circuit with two resistors.

"Determine"?  Measure?  Calculate?  "between two points"?  Between which
two points?  Any two?  Perhaps, "Calculate the current through, and the
voltage across, each of two resistors connected in series to a known
voltage source.  Calculate the power dissipated by each resistor."

      Benchmark 9P.
   Describe how moving electric charges produce magnetic forces and
   moving magnets produce electric forces.

They "produce [...] forces" on _what_?  I suppose that there's no chance
of discussing electric and magnetic fields instead of forces. 
Discussing those forces requires introducing something on which they act
(which seems not to have been done here).  Standard 9P.2.3.2.x and
Standard 9P. refer to electric and magnetic fields.  Why not use
the right concept here?

      Benchmark 9P.
   Use the interplay of electric and magnetic forces to explain how
   motors, generators, and transformers work.

How valuable is it to know how a transformer works, without knowing what
to do with one?

      Standard 9P.2.3.3.x
   Magnetic and electric fields interact to produce electromagnetic

So, all I need to do to "produce electromagnetic waves" is to smoosh a
magnetic field together with an electric field?  I thought that there
was more to it than that.

      Benchmark 9P.
   Describe the nature of the magnetic and electrical fields in a
   propagating electromagnetic wave.

I'd feel better if there were some indication here of what the expected
answer might be.  Again, "electrical fields" instead of "electric
fields".  I'd settle for an explanation of the relationship between
them (oscillating, synchronous, perpendicular to each other and to the
propagation vector of the wave, and so on).

      Benchmark 9P.
   Quantitatively relate the speed of light in a medium to its frequency
   and wavelength in that medium, and in free space.

Obviously, it would be wrong to say anything so clear and concise as,
say, "v = f (lambda)", but I'm confused by the "and in free space" part. 
Is the idea to "relate the speed of light in a medium to its frequency
and wavelength [...] in free space", or to "relate the speed of light" in
free space "to its frequency and wavelength [...] in free space", or
what?  Are there any plans to publish a "Key to the Scriptures" for this
document which might explain to us uninitiated what it's talking about?

      Benchmark 9P.
   Use Snell's Law to explain the refraction and total internal
   reflection of light in transparent media, such as lenses and fiber

If this "Snell's Law" includes the index of refraction of the medium,
would it be unreasonable for the term "index of refraction" to appear
somewhere in this document?

Does Snell's Law "explain" these phenomena, or does it predict them, or
is it merely consistent with them?

While it's not obvious here, Snell's Law (at least the Snell's Law I
learned) is an equation.  How does a student with only high-school math
skills apply Snell's Law to curved shapes like "lenses"?

Is this Benchmark intended to imply that both "refraction and total
internal reflection" occur in both "lenses and fiber optics"?

"[F]iber optics" is a field of technology.  An "optical fiber" is a
transparent fiber through which light travels.  (Proprietor!  I'd like
to buy ten meters of one of your finest fiber optics."  I don't think

      Benchmark 9P.
   Use properties of light, including reflection, refraction,
   interference, Doppler effect and the photoelectric effect, to explain
   phenomena and describe applications.

See Benchmark 9P.  Which "phenomena" will these "properties"
explain?  (Isn't, say, reflection itself a phenomenon?)  A list of
examples of "applications" to explain might be useful here.

      Benchmark 9P.
   Compare the wave model and particle model in explaining properties of

See Benchmark 9P.  Perhaps, "the behavior of light", instead of
"properties of light".

      Benchmark 9P.
   Compare the wavelength, frequency and energy of different kinds of
   waves in the electromagnetic spectrum and describe their

One might argue that "the electromagnetic spectrum" contains only one
kind of wave, namely, electromagnetic waves.  Of course, it would make
little sense to ask the student to compare the frequency of
electromagnetic waves of different frequencies, but that is essentially
what _is_ being requested here.

      Standard 9P.2.3.4.x
   Heat is energy transferred between objects or regions that are at
   different temperatures by the processes of convection, conduction and

So, is a transfer needed in order to have heat?  Heat is energy which
_may_be_ transferred [...]?

Like, say, the radiation from a radio transmitter in Ecuador to a
receiver in Antarctica?  An accurate definition of heat might be more
complex, but it might be worth the effort.

      Benchmark 9P.
   Describe and calculate the quantity of heat transferred between
   solids and/or liquids, using specific heat, density and temperatures.

"Describe and calculate", again.  And how, exactly, would one do that,
especially not knowing the mass of anything?  If the idea here is to be
able to analyze a calorimeter experiment, then perhaps it would be
useful to say that.  "Describe [...] the quantity of heat" seems like a
strangely vague request.

      Benchmark 9P.
   Explain the role of gravity, pressure and density in the convection
   of heat by a fluid.

They all share one role?  "convection of heat"?  "by a fluid"?  Clarity
is cheap.  "Explain the roles of gravity, pressure, and density in
thermal convection in a fluid."

I'd like to see how well a student does on this Benchmark, if she can't
explain why a balloon or a boat floats.

      Benchmark 9P.
   Compare the rate at which objects at different temperatures will
   transfer thermal energy by electromagnetic radiation.

You mean like "hotter is faster", or might there be something
quantitative hidden from view?  Might this rate depend on some measure
of the size of the object?

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   Steven M. Schweda                            2009-06-16

© 2017 Steven M. Schweda.