AAPT Abstract Archive

Abstract Information

  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
  Time: 7:40PM
  Author: David E. Meltzer,, Arizona State University,
4807275215, david.meltzer@asu.edu
  Co-Author(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 high-school-level trigonometry and algebra problems; error rates vary from 10-30% in second-semester calculus-based courses to 70% and higher in first-semester algebra-based courses. Based on analysis of students' responses to written diagnostics and on one-on-one problem-solving 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

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