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A conceptual physics class where students found meaning in calculations Documents

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A conceptual physics class where students found meaning in calculations 

written by Michael M. Hull and Andrew Elby

Prior to taking a translated version of the Maryland Open Source Tutorials (OSTs) as a stand-alone course, most students at Tokyo Gakugei University in Japan had experienced physics as memorizing laws and equations to use as computational tools. We might expect this reformed physics class, which emphasizes common sense and conceptual reasoning and rarely invokes equations, to produce students who see a disconnect between equation use and intuitive/conceptual reasoning. Many students at Gakugei, however, somehow learned to integrate mathematics into their "constructivist" epistemologies of physics, even though OSTs do not emphasize this integration. Tadao, for example, came to see that although a common-sense solution to a problem is preferable for explaining to someone who doesn't know physics, solving the problem with a quantitative calculation (that connects to physical meaning) can bring clarity and concreteness to communication between experts. How this integration occurred remains an open question for future research.

Published January 24, 2013
Last Modified June 26, 2013