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Does Explaining Equations in Their Own Words Help Students Attach Physical Meaning to the Equations?

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Conference

2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

Innovations in Teaching and Research in Physics or Engineering Physics II

Tagged Division

Engineering Physics & Physics

Page Count

7

Page Numbers

25.477.1 - 25.477.7

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/21235

Download Count

17

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Paper Authors

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Marie Lopez del Puerto University of Saint Thomas

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Marie Lopez del Puerto completed her B.S. in physics at Universidad de las Americas, Puebla, in Puebla, Mexico, and her Ph.D. in physics at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities in Minneapolis, Minn. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Physics Department at the University of Saint Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. Her research interests include the structural, optical and electronic properties of nanoscale systems, computational physics, and physics and engineering education.

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Jeff Jalkio University of Saint Thomas

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Paul R. Ohmann University of Saint Thomas

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Paul R. Ohmann received a B.A. from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., and an M.S. and Ph.D. in physics from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He is currently an Associate Professor in the Physics Department at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. His current interests involve computational physics and complex systems, as well as physics and engineering education.

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Abstract

Does explaining equations in their own words help students attach physical meaning to the equations?In order for students to correctly solve a given problem, they must have a good understanding ofthe different physical situations described by the equations in their toolbox. This means thatstudents must associate equations with their physical meaning and not just see equations ascollections of letters and mathematical symbols into which to plug numbers. This semester, inseveral undergraduate level Physics courses, we are asking students to explain importantequations in their own words in a variety of pedagogical ways. To motivate and test theirunderstanding, each exam that students take during the semester will include an open-ended“Explain this equation in words” question, which we will score based on the depth ofunderstanding shown. There are a few questions we are interested in exploring: As studentspractice this skill, do their explanations become better (i.e. do individual students show deeperunderstanding as the semester progresses)? Is a student’s score in the “Explain this equation inwords” question on each exam correlated to his/her total exam score and to his/her final grade?Does the emphasis of putting equations into words result in greater conceptual understanding?We will use standardized pre- and post-tests given in each of our courses to see if there is adifference in gain as compared to past semesters. We will present data from two sections of oursecond-semester calculus-based Physics course, and from our first-semester junior-levelElectricity and Magnetism course.

Lopez del Puerto, M., & Jalkio, J., & Ohmann, P. R. (2012, June), Does Explaining Equations in Their Own Words Help Students Attach Physical Meaning to the Equations? Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. https://peer.asee.org/21235

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