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Students’ Understanding of Inclined Planes Using the CoMPASS Curriculum Documents

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Students’ Understanding of Inclined Planes Using the CoMPASS Curriculum 

written by Jacquelyn Haynicz, N. Sanjay Rebello, and Sadhana Puntambekar

In this paper, we discuss how students enrolled in a conceptual physics class for future elementary school teachers progress through the CoMPASS (Concept Map Project-based Activity Scaffolding System) curriculum for inclined planes.  The curriculum challenges students to design the best inclined plane to lift a pool table into a van.  We have found that students typically predict the correct type of board (long and smooth) to complete the challenge, but their responses include evidence of both physics and everyday reasoning.  After working through the materials, the majority of students understand the relationship between distance and force in the inclined plane as well as why the inclined plane is useful to lift heavy objects. However, students have difficulty both relating a plane's steepness to the force required to pull an object and discussing work in a scientifically correct manner.

Published October 20, 2008
Last Modified May 21, 2009

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