Dear Incoming 9th Grader,

On behalf of the Menlo Science Department, I would like to personally welcome you to Menlo School. You have an exciting four years ahead of you, and we hope that your science experience will be engaging, fun, and illuminating. I would like to take a few moments of your time to help you prepare for your first day of Physics.

What do I need to obtain before the first day of school?

  • Pencil and binder - Hopefully it goes without saying that you will need pencils and binders for all your courses. You’ll be getting a lot of handouts (worksheets, labs, study guides, etc.) and you’ll need a way to keep everything organized and in one place.
  • Calculator - You are expected to bring your calculator to class every day. If you don’t already have one, please purchase a TI-84 series calculator (this model is required by the Menlo Math Department). Since all Menlo students have this calculator, it is imperative that you write your name on your calculator.
  • Protractor - Please obtain a 180°, 6-inch protractor, with a metric scale (about $2).
  • Textbook - The textbook for Physics is Conceptual Physics by Paul G. Hewitt (ISBN13: 978-0-13-364749-5). You can purchase it through Menlo’s MBSDirect website or through any vendor you prefer.
  • People’s Physics Book - The Menlo physics teachers have published a workbook entitled The People’s Physics Book. This workbook is sold in person at the Menlo bookstore (not available online) at our cost (approximately $15 per semester). Students in Conceptual Physics do not need to purchase this book.

What do I need to know in preparation for Physics?

There are no prerequisites to 9th Grade Physics, and we do not expect students to have studied physics in middle school. Just be ready to go on day one with all of your materials in hand and ready to learn.  If you want to get a sense of the material we’ll be covering in the first week or so of class, take a look at the following.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you should have any questions. See you in August!


James Formato

Chair, Upper School Science Department

(650) 330-2001 x2261 / james.formato@menloschool.org

9th Grade Physics Preparation Topics

Since math is such an important tool in Physics we will begin the school year learning about numbers, measurement, data and basic algebra. You may review the following items and try to assess how comfortable you are with each. You do not need to arrive at school knowing how to do these problems- we will teach these problems in the first few weeks of school.

Protractor - It may have been some time since you’ve had to use your protractor. Please make sure you are comfortable with both measuring angles and drawing angles.


Conversions - Do you know how to do basic conversions (e.g. feet to meters)? You don’t need to memorize the actual conversion value, however you should know how to do a calculation given the conversion.

  • Example 1: If 1 pound equals 4.45 Newtons, then how many pounds are in 87 Newtons?
  • Ex. 2: How many minutes are in 42 days? (1 day = 24 hrs, 1 hr = 60 minutes)


Metric Conversions - The entire course is taught using the metric system. You will be provided with a table of metric conversions and prefixes, however you should memorize the following:

  • 100 cm = 1 m
  • 1 cm = 10 mm
  • 1 m = 1,000 mm
  • 1 kg = 1000 g (or 1 km = 1,000 m)


Scientific Notation - Some of the numbers that we use are either extremely large or extremely small, and thus we have no choice but to express them in scientific notation. You should be able to express numbers in scientific notation and know how to enter numbers into your calculator using scientific notation (using the “EE” key). For the latter, please refer to your calculator’s user guide.

  • Ex. 3: Write 57,000,000 in scientific notation.
  • Ex. 4: Write 0.000000018 in scientific notation.
  • Ex. 5: Using your calculator, solve the following: (9.0 x 107)(3.2 x 10-4) =    


Basic Algebra - Given a formula such as v = d/t (velocity = distance/time), can you solve for any one variable?

  • Ex. 6: If d = 6, and t = 2, solve for v.
  • Ex. 7: If v = 21, and t = 4, solve for d.
  • Ex. 8: If v = 21, and d = 88, solve for t.

Isolating Variables - Given a formula, can you isolate a variable without substituting numbers?

  • Ex. 9: Can you solve for d if:



1. 19.55 lbs.

2. 60,480 minutes

3. 5.7 x 107

4. 1.8 x 10-8

5. 2.88 x 104

6. 3

7.  84

8. 4.19


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