Physics Colloquium - Monday, April 30th, 2007, 4:00 P.M.

E300 Math/Science Center; Refreshments at 3:30 P.M. in Room E200

Edward (Joe) Redish
Department of Physics
University of Maryland

Problem Solving and the Use of Math in Physics Courses

Mathematics is an essential element of physics problem solving, but as scientists, we often fail to appreciate exactly what we are doing with it. Math may be the language of science, but math-in-physics is a distinct dialect of that language that requires both more subtlety and more skills than are typically taught in math courses. Research with students in classes ranging from algebra-based physics to graduate quantum mechanics indicates that (1) we sometimes don't appreciate the skills students need to solve the problems we assign, and (2) students problems are sometimes with their expectations about what they are supposed to be doing rather than with their math skills. Implications for instruction will be discussed.