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Helping Students Recognize And Solve Different Problem Types In Engineering, Mathematics, And Physics

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Problem-Solving & Project-Based Learning

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.687.1 - 10.687.6



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Paper Authors

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Kathleen Harper

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John Demel

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Richard Freuler

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Helping Students Recognize and Solve Different Problem Types in Engineering, Mathematics, and Physics

John T. Demel and Richard J. Freuler First-Year Engineering Program Kathleen A. Harper Department of Physics The Ohio State University

Abstract In the Fundamentals of Engineering for Honors (FEH) program (three parallel course sequences in mathematics, engineering, and physics) at Ohio State, the faculty members from these disciplines meet weekly and coordinate their teaching efforts so that topics are presented in a timely fashion. The purpose of this coordination is to help the students see the interconnections between the various disciplines and understand how physics and mathematics are used in engineering to solve problems. Mathematics is using the Calculus (Harvard Calculus) text by Deborah Hughes-Hallett, et al. (1) This text says that each topic should be presented “geometrically, numerically, and algebraically.” The Physics Department is using Physics for Scientists and Engineers: A Strategic Approach by Randall D. Knight. (2) His stated approach to problem solving is to ”model, visualize, solve and assess.” Both of these books counsel not to do the algebra until problems are defined. However, most students in the FEH program come from high schools where the emphasis was on finding the correct formula and then plugging in the numbers. Currently the mathematics, engineering and physics faculty members do not share explicitly a common approach to categorizing problem types and how to solve them. This work in progress is focused on having these faculty members discuss problem solving, decide on a common approach, and present problem solving as an integrated topic in each of the three course sequences. This paper will describe the process of determining a consistent approach to problem solving, the planning necessary for implementation in 2005-06, and an assessment process to compare a pilot group to control group(s). The ultimate goal is to make the learning process more efficient for the students and to aid them in seeing more connections between their courses.

Background In the FEH program since 1997, physics, engineering, and mathematics have been coordinating the topics so that students have the appropriate background for each of the courses. However, the three units have not collaborated on the types of problems that the students are solving in each of the classes. This project is focused on fostering more collaboration of this type so that students begin to recognize problem types across the disciplines.

Physics The physics faculty members who work with the FEH program have been using a variety of active learning approaches in teaching mechanics and electricity and magnetism. Incorporated in this work have been active learning strategies that emphasize both

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright 2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Harper, K., & Demel, J., & Freuler, R. (2005, June), Helping Students Recognize And Solve Different Problem Types In Engineering, Mathematics, And Physics Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14689

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