Problem Solving Practice

Clover Creek’s physics course uses Hewitt’s Conceptual Physics as its base text. This textbook is fantastic; its explanations are clear, its examples are interesting, and its coverage of physics concepts is second-to-none. But because it is a conceptual text, it only occasionally touches on physics problem solving.

Why Add in Problem Solving?

The truth is that I completely agree with Paul Hewitt’s reasoning behind writing his text. Solving physics problems without a strong understanding of the concepts underlying them is a fruitless exercise. But I did not want the Clover Creek course to be completely conceptual; I wanted the students to learn how to solve problems related to the concepts that they learned. I also wanted them to develop good problem-solving skills that would help them in other high school science (and possibly math) courses. Finally, I wanted the students to be able to list the course as a regular physics course on their transcripts.

Problem Solving Practice

To achieve these goals, I have added problem solving practice to the course when it is appropriate and fits with text reading. In the morning message on those days, I work several examples to show the students how to solve the problems, and then they try several problems on their own on problem solving practice worksheets. Here is an example of one of these worksheets:

PSP22 snip


Checking and Correcting

The students work through the practice problems and then check their own work using the key that I provide. If they missed a problem, they are supposed to correct the problems beside their original work, so they can hopefully figure out what they did incorrectly. If they still don’t understand the problem, then they can post questions about it on the discussion forum. Here is an example of the key’s solution to part c of number 2 in the problem solving practice pictured above:

PSP22key snip


These problem solving practice worksheets add an extra dimension to the course and allow students to label the course “Physics” on their transcripts.