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Abstract Title: What do students think about when they think about proportions?
Abstract: Physicists reason about proportions in a variety of contexts without conscious effort.  Students, on the other hand, tend to reason about ratio operations based solely on memorized algorithms.  They struggle to match the appropriate algorithm to the situation encountered.  If asked to justify or explain an operation, they not only are unable to do so, but often do not even understand what is being asked.  Further, students seldom reason consistently from context to context the way a physicist does. In light of these findings, describing the classroom work of students as "proportional reasoning" may be a misnomer.  One strategy that can be used across contexts to justify mathematical operations and check them is "package reasoning," described by Arons, McDermott, and others.  At Western Washington University, we are investigating how students engage with package reasoning, including what productive footholds might be available to them, and what features present particular difficulty.  In this poster, results from written questions will be used to illustrate student thinking.
Abstract Type: Targeted Poster
Targeted Session: Proportional Reasoning in Physics: What are students thinking? How can we help?

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Andrew Boudreaux
Western Washington University