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2011 AAPT Summer Meeting
July 30-August 3, 2011
Omaha, Nebraska

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Measuring Conceptual Understanding in Kinematics by Problem-Solving
  Location: SS 104
  Date: Wednesday, Aug.3
  Time: 9:40 AM -9:50 AM
  Author: Daniel Smith, Jr., South Carolina State University
  Co-Author(s): None
  Abstract: To solve kinematics problems, students are usually advised to (1) draw a diagram or graph, (2) write down known and unknown quantities, (3) choose kinematic equations that will allow the determination of the unknown quantities, and (4) solve that equation. Frequently this prescription does not result in the student finding a problem solution, but why? Often student difficulties are attributed to their inability to choose the correct equation, or to weak skills in algebra. Evidence is presented from a calculus-based physics class, however, that students fail to solve problems because they lack a conceptual understanding of the problem, as determined by their ability to relate the problem data to a diagram. The limited roles that "choosing the right equation," and weak algebra skills play in problem-solving is further explored by having students solve problems graphically by using interactive software designed especially for one-dimensional kinematics problems.
  Footnotes: None
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