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Abstract Title: A conceptual physics class where students found meaning in calculations
Abstract: Prior to taking a translated version of Open Source Tutorials [1] (OSTs) as a stand-alone course, most students at Tokyo Gakugei University had experienced physics as memorizing laws and equations to use as computational tools.   We might expect students entering this reformed physics class, which emphasizes common sense and conceptual reasoning and rarely invokes equations, to produce students who see a disconnect between equation use and intuitive/conceptual reasoning.  Many students at Gakugei, however, somehow learned to reconcile quantitative problem solving with conceptual understanding even though OSTs do not emphasize this process.    Tadao, for example, came to see that although a common-sense solution to a problem is preferable for explaining to someone who doesn't know physics, solving the problem with a quantitative calculation (that connects to physical meaning) can bring clarity and concreteness to communication between experts.   How this reconciliation occurred remains an open question and a candidate for future research.

[1] Elby, A., Scherr, R. E., McCaskey, T. L., Hodges, R., Redish, E. F., Hammer, D. M., & Bing, T. (2007).  Open Source Tutorials in Physics Sense-making: Suite I. DVD retrieved from

This work is partially supported by NSF-IEECI grant # 0835880
Abstract Type: Contributed Poster Presentation

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Michael M. Hull
University of Maryland College Park
082 Regents Drive
College Park, MD 20742
and Co-Presenter(s)
Andrew Elby
University of Maryland College Park

Contributed Poster

Contributed Poster: Download the Contributed Poster