Overview

In this activity, students will sort physics problems into categories.

Students are assigned to groups of 3-4 and given 27 cards, each of which has a physics problem on it. These correspond to the 27 problems used in the three Problem Sorting activities. Ideally these cards are given in a notebook file and groups work at an interactive whiteboard, however they can also be printed and cut out.

Students sort the problems into categories of their own choosing, basing these categories on the underlying physics rather than on superficial qualities. The group writes an explanation of their sorting method and why the ...

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In this activity, students will sort physics problems into categories.

Students are assigned to groups of 3-4 and given 27 cards, each of which has a physics problem on it. These correspond to the 27 problems used in the three Problem Sorting activities. Ideally these cards are given in a notebook file and groups work at an interactive whiteboard, however they can also be printed and cut out.

Students sort the problems into categories of their own choosing, basing these categories on the underlying physics rather than on superficial qualities. The group writes an explanation of their sorting method and why the categories were chosen.

Groups then perform a gallery walk, visiting each group's workstation to compare the categories with their own, discussing amongst themselves. Returning to their original workstation, each group is given the opportunity to change their categories and sorting methods. Note that there is no "correct" answer, different groups are encouraged to come up with different solutions.

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Objectives

Students learn to analyze problems and identify key features at a deeper level. Students learn to ignore superficial features of problems and focus on the physics itself.

Context and requirements

Level Grade 10-Grade 11, Grade 12-U0
Discipline Physics
Course Mechanics
Activity Content Mechanics (all)
Technological Requirements Interactive whiteboards are recommended but not required.
Best Use Review

Author’s Notes

Benefits

This cuts down on a lot of time because students have to understand a problem but don’t actually have to solve it. This gets students thinking about the types of problems they can solve rather than how to solve specific problems. They can categorize problems and pick out the key parts.

This is great before an exam, as it allows students to see and think about a large number of problems in a short period of time. It also helps them quickly identify the important parts of a problem so they can get on to solving it.

Challenges

Designing similar sets of problems from scratch takes a long time.

Tips

This activity should be done as a wrap-up for the entire course. This works best if you have completed the Problem Sorting activity as a wrap-up for the three major units: kinematics, dynamics, and energy/momentum, as this presents the same questions with which they are already familiar.

Activity Pedagogical Components

Data Analysis

Working in GROUPS, students sort problems into categories of their own choosing. The decision should be based on the underlying physics rather than on superficial grounds. Students provide a written rationale for their groupings. This is completed IN CLASS.

Gallery Walk

As a GROUP, students perform a gallery walk. Groups move from one workstation to the next to review and discuss each other group’s work. This is completed IN CLASS.

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