TitlePrompting Special-Case Analysis in Classical Mechanics
Publication TypeContributed Talk
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsHahn, Kelby T., Paul J. Emigh, MacKenzie Lenz, and Elizabeth Gire
Venue/ConferenceAmerican Association of Physics Teachers Annual Summer Meeting
CityProvo, UT
Publication Languageeng

One way that physics experts check and gain new insights into their answers is by performing special-case analysis. Special-case analysis involves (1) restricting the parameter space of a problem to a case where the solution is either known or can be intuited, and then (2) either making a judgement about answer correctness or gaining new insight into the problem. This research project examines how students in classical mechanics perform special-cases analysis. We present analysis of homework problems where students were either (1) explicitly prompted to perform a special-case analysis for given cases or (2) asked to make sense of their answer but the special-case-analysis strategy was not specifically prompted. We found that the cases students chose to analyze varied and that students used a variety of reasoning to defend and understand their cases. Surprisingly, few students made judgments. Of those who did, the types of judgements differed with prompting.

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