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Reading the problem

Recently some have commented on the inabilility of many students to even
read a physics problem correctly. Many years ago I wrote up a set of six
rules that students should follow to solve physics problems in both my
trig-based and calculus-based physics courses. Rule number 1 is to:
Read the problem (slowly and carefully). On the first day of class I
hand out the rules and go through each one of them always emphasizing how
the seemingly trivial first rule is so important. To make sure that my
students learn to think conceptually and not simply memorize, all of my
tests, including the final, are open book: students can use their text,
notes, and solutions to homework assignments. I have never been able to
understand why anybody would give a physics test that was closed-book.
Now, it may be that everyone on this list gives open-book tests, but I
do know personally that physics professors do give closed-book tests.
I have even tried to convince my colleagues in Chemistry and Biology to
do as I do, but the advantage of grading multiple-choice questions by
machine is too great.

James M. Espinosa