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A hallmark of physics is its rich use of representations. The most common types used by physicists are mathematical representations such as equations, but many problems are rendered more tractable through the use of other representations such as diagrams or graphs. Examples of representations include force diagrams in mechanics, state diagrams in thermodynamics, and motion graphs in kinematics. Most introductory physics courses teach students to use these representations as they apply physical models to problems. But does student representation use correlate with problem-solving success? In this paper we address this question by analyzing student representation usage during the first semester of an introductory physics course for biologists taught in an active-learning setting.
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