Session:

PER: Examining Content Understanding and Reasoning

Paper Type:

Contributed

Title:

Exploring the Factors Underlying Physics Students' Mathematical Difficulties*

Meeting:

2017 Winter Meeting: Atlanta, Georgia 
Location:

N/A 
Date:


Time:

7:40PM

Author:

David E. Meltzer,, Arizona State University,
4807275215, david.meltzer@asu.edu

CoAuthor(s):

Matthew I. Jones,

Abstract:

We are continuing an investigation of mathematical difficulties that pose obstacles for students in introductory university physics courses. We have documented that a substantial proportion of students consistently make errors on highschoollevel trigonometry and algebra problems; error rates vary from 1030% in secondsemester calculusbased courses to 70% and higher in firstsemester algebrabased courses. Based on analysis of students' responses to written diagnostics and on oneonone problemsolving interviews, we observe that these student difficulties have three primary components: (1) simple carelessness; (2) inadequate skill levels; (3) difficulties with mathematical concepts. We are exploring the relative magnitude of these components along with the nature and strength of their interaction, in an effort to find effective methods for improving students' performance.

Footnotes:

*Supported in part by NSF DUE #1504986

