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Re: Reading the problem

A few days ago James Espinosa commented on his rules for doing problems.
One year I became so frustrated with the performance of my students on tests th
at I wrote out all my suggestions for solving problems as "rules" with the firs
t rule being that students had to bring the set of rules to the tests. If they
forgot the rules they couldn't take the test. Rule 2 was that any solution tha
t did not follow the rules was an automatic 0. These rules resulted in a drama
tic improvement in test results. However, this procedure seems so Mickey Mouse
to me that I have never repeated it. I guess that I think helping students de
velop good judgement, common sense, and thinking skills is more important than
solutions to physics problems and training students to follow rules, even if it
helps solve physics problems is counter productive to my larger goals. Whatev
er my rules they will not be universally applicable. Ultimately, students will
need to develop more flexible approaches to function successfully in a complex
society. Thus, my feeling was that the rules only brought the illusion of succ
ess. On the other hand I suppose that using my rules and seeing how they work
could provide a good example for students to use in formulating more flexible a
pproches to use in a larger context. I'd be curious to hear from more of you o
n how you feel about these issues and how you approach them.