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Facilitating Students’ Problem Solving across Multiple Representations in Introductory Mechanics Documents

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Facilitating Students’ Problem Solving across Multiple Representations in Introductory Mechanics 

written by Dong-Hai Nguyen, Elizabeth Gire, and N. Sanjay Rebello

Solving problems presented in multiple representations is an important skill for future physicists and engineers. However, such a task is not easy for most students taking introductory physics courses. We conducted teaching/learning interviews with 20 students in a first-semester calculus-based physics course on several topics in introductory mechanics. These interviews helped identify the common difficulties students encountered when solving physics problems posed in multiple representations as well as the hints that help students overcome those difficulties. We found that most representational difficulties arise due to the lack of students' ability to associate physics knowledge with corresponding mathematical knowledge. Based on those findings, we developed, tested and refined a set of problem-solving exercises to help students learn to solve problems in graphical and equational representations. We present our findings on students' common difficulties with graphical and equational representations, the problem-solving exercises and their impact on students' problem solving abilities.

Published August 24, 2010
Last Modified October 6, 2010

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