Session:

PER: Examining Content Understanding and Reasoning

Paper Type:

Contributed

Title:

Investigating Student Difficulties Solving Systems of Equations*

Meeting:

2017 Winter Meeting: Atlanta, Georgia 
Location:

N/A 
Date:


Time:

7:30PM

Author:

Matthew I. Jones,
Arizona State University, Polytechnic campus,
2188519715, mijones1@asu.edu

CoAuthor(s):

David E. Meltzer,

Abstract:

Mathematical difficulties of introductory physics students are well documented, but not all such difficulties have yet been carefully examined. One of the most frequently encountered types of mathematical problem to arise in introductory physics is the solution of systems of equations involving just two or three variables. For example, when balancing force vectors in a plane, students are often confronted with two equations and two unknowns, and are asked to find the values of the variables. As part of a larger study, we have developed a diagnostic that includes multiple questions about solving such small systems of equations. This diagnostic was given to over 600 students in first and secondsemester physics courses, and preliminary results show that many students struggle to solve these problems. We will present our methods and findings, including possible insights into how students approach the problem of solving systems of equations.

Footnotes:

*Supported in part by NSF DUE #1504986.

