AAPT Abstract Archive

Abstract Information

  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
  Time: 7:30PM
  Author: Matthew I. Jones,
Arizona State University, Polytechnic campus,
2188519715, mijones1@asu.edu
  Co-Author(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 second-semester 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.

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