Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 3 sessions / week, 1 hour / session

Recitations: 2 sessions / week, 1 hour / session

General Information

8.01 is the mid-level first-year physics course, aimed at the majority of MIT students. It is paced faster than 8.01L, it is less rigorous that 8.012, and it does not have the emphasis on take-home experiments that characterizes 8.01X.

Our goal is to convey the excitement of the physicist's quest to understand nature at its deepest level, and at the same time to provide the knowledge and tools that you will need to continue your studies in science or engineering. We hope you will enjoy the course.


Lectures will be given by Prof. Stanley Kowalski thrice a week, for 1 hour each. We expect you to attend the lectures. The lectures will explain the concepts that you are expected to understand, and in addition there will be live demonstrations that are important to your understanding of the material.

Recitation Classes

You will be assigned to a recitation class that meets twice a week, for 50 minutes each meeting. These classes will give you an opportunity to ask questions about the material, and to practice the art of problem solving. There will be five 25-minute quizzes given during recitation. If you need to change your recitation class, ask at the Physics Education Office.

Tutoring and Instructors' Office Hours

Graduate student tutors will be available throughout the term, and you are strongly encouraged to seek their help. Tutoring sessions last 25 minutes. Initially they will be on a drop-in basis, but we may switch to a sign-up system if there is a problem with overcrowded sessions.


Buy at Amazon Young, Hugh, Lewis Ford and Roger Freedman. University Physics. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 2003. ISBN: 0321500628.

The textbook is a required purchase. When the material in the Study Guide is too concise for your taste, you can turn to the textbook, which provides more detailed derivations and explanations of the results and formulas. It also has more worked examples and problems, problem-solving hints, etc. Homework problems will be assigned from the textbook.

Study Guide

Busza, Wit, Susan Cartwright, and Alan H. Guth. Essentials of Introductory Classical Mechanics. 6th ed.

The Study Guide is not a required purchase, but is recommended. It was written especially for this course and will be your main resource for the course's material. It defines the content of the course, provides a concise discussion of the relevant principles of physics, and includes a large collection of physics problems, some with full solutions and some without. If by the end of the term you understand and know how to use the material in the Study Guide, you will deserve an A for the course. Since the Study Guide is still under development, it may contain some errors. If you discover any errors, we would very much appreciate your sending an e-mail message about them. No error is too small to be worth correcting.

Problem Sets

Problem sets will be assigned about once a week; the exact schedule of hand-out dates and due dates is included on the Course Calendar, attached to this handout. Normally, written homework will be posted on the web on Wednesdays. It will be due the following week on Thursdays by 4 pm. There are exceptions. Check the web. Normally, Mastering Physics assignments will be posted on the web on Tuesdays. They will be due the following week on Tuesdays by 10 pm. Check the course calendar for exceptions. The two lowest homework scores will be excluded from the homework grade.

We believe that working out the problems on the homework is absolutely essential to learning the material of this course. Trying to learn physics without doing problems is like trying to learn how to ride a bicycle by reading a book. We strongly encourage students to get together in groups to discuss the homework, but of course the mere copying of solutions written by your friends will not help you learn physics. Solutions to each problem set will be made available immediately after they are due.

Mastering Physics

Registered students will be given access to Mastering Physics, an on-line tutorial and homework system. We will be using the access kit that comes with Young and Freedman's eleventh edition. Note: OCW Users will not be able to access this material.


Recitation Quizzes

On five selected weeks, 25-minute quizzes will be given in the Wednesday and Thursday recitation sections. The dates of the recitation quizzes are shown on the course calendar.

50-minute Exams

Three lecture periods during the term -- session #17, session #35, and session #53 -- will be used for 50-minute exams. Each exam will focus on all the material since the previous exam, and will include at least one problem that is at most a slight modification of a previously assigned homework problem. Students will be assigned to exam rooms according to their family names.

Target Scores

The material in this course is tightly interconnected, so it is very difficult to understand the contents of Chapter N if you are not comfortable with the ideas in Chapters 1 . . . N -1. For that reason, we want to do everything that we can to encourage you to stay on top of the subject, avoiding any gaps in your understanding. As part of this encouragement, after each exam Prof. Kowalski will announce a target score -- a level that is comfortably above the passing line, which we would like all students to attain. Students who fall below the target score will have the opportunity to improve their grades (and their understanding) by taking a Make-Up Exam.

Make-Up Exams

The Make-up Exams will be given on Tuesday evenings at 7:30 p.m., at least one week after the original 50-minute Exam. Make-up Exam #1 will be held during session #23; #2 will be held during session #42 at 7:30 pm; #3 will be held session #58 at 7:30 pm. The dates for the 50-minute Exams and the Make-up Exams are shown on the course calendar. Students electing to take the Make-up Exam will have a grade recorded as their exam grade which is the average of the Make-Up Exam and the regular 50-minute Exam, if any, up to a maximum of the target score.

Final Examination

The 3-hour final exam, which will cover the material from the entire course, will be held five days after the last lecture (lec 36), 9 am - noon. There will be no make-up final.


Problem Sets 9%
Mastering Physics 9%
Recitation 10%
50-minute Exams 36%
Final Exam 36%


Academic Behavior and Honesty

During quizzes and exams, exchange of information with others is unacceptable. So is the use of notes or other materials, unless explicitly authorized. You will not be allowed to use calculators (they will not be needed). Anyone suspected of violating these guidelines will be charged with academic dishonesty and subject to MIT's disciplinary procedures. However, you are strongly encouraged to get together in groups to discuss the problem sets and the material presented in the course.

MIT's academic honesty policy can be found at MIT Policies and Procedures.