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Re: Problem solving or playtime?

On Fri, 12 Apr 1996 09:40:43 -0400 (ED, Bob Muir wrote:

On the other hand the students who come to my classes have exceptionally
poor problem solving skills. In some cases, they do want to plug and
chug because they think that is how problems are solved. Others don't
use that approach, but do not know how to READ a problem to identify what
it is about, to properly interpret the scenario, to properly interpret
the information given (numeric or verbal), and to correctly interpret the
question asked, i.e., when I have solved the problem what is it that I
have calculated?

I guess what I'm suggesting is a "golden mean" - the interpretation of
the calculated answer requires a stronger conceptual base than what is
required to duplicate the "numbers in the back of the book".

We expect students in other fields or activities to PRACTICE (e.g.,
music, art, athletics, writing, etc.). Why shouldn't we expect physics
students to practice on tasks which sharpen the skills needed to solve
problems in an appropriate way? The music student practices and
interacts with the instructor for feedback. Presumably, the good music
teacher goes beyond rote practice to include interpretation. So should
the practice of physics problem solving not be done in a robotic,
isolated situation.

Absolutely. I'm not calling for the abandonment of problems, but rather
the abandonment of learning physics _only_ from the text and the problems.
Recall that the original question on this thread had to do with a teacher
who was told to spend less time with the textbook and more time doing other
George Spagna ******************************************
Department of Physics * *
Randolph-Macon College * "Imagination is more important *
P.O. Box 5005 * than knowledge." *
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* - Albert Einstein *
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