Overview

In this activity, students are presented with sets of three problems and must determine which is least similar to the others.

Students are assigned to groups of 3-4, and are presented with three problems. Working individually, they determine which problem is least like the other two - this should be based on the physics of the problem rather than on superficial features (such as whether there is a graph). They write a rationale for their response.

Within their groups, students discuss and debate their answers. Once they come to a consensus, students may alter their written response (using a different ...

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In this activity, students are presented with sets of three problems and must determine which is least similar to the others.

Students are assigned to groups of 3-4, and are presented with three problems. Working individually, they determine which problem is least like the other two - this should be based on the physics of the problem rather than on superficial features (such as whether there is a graph). They write a rationale for their response.

Within their groups, students discuss and debate their answers. Once they come to a consensus, students may alter their written response (using a different coloured pen). This process is repeated for two more sets of three problems (for a total of 9).

The instructor can then review all three sets with the class, explaining the correct solutions. After this, students work in their groups to determine which four problems (from the total set of 9) are most similar. They provide a written rationale for their response. Typically there is no correct solution here, and the written rationale is more important than the answer itself.

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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 None
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 a midterm or 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 three major units: kinematics, dynamics, and energy/momentum. The Problem Sorting Review activity can then be used as a final review.

Activity Pedagogical Components

Data Analysis

Working INDIVIDUALLY, students determine which of three problems is least like the others. This decision should be based on the underlying physics rather than superficial reasons. Students provide a rationale for their answer. This is completed IN CLASS.

Peer Review

In GROUPS, students discuss and debate each others’ work, coming to a consensus on the correct solution. They may then revise their previous response. This is done IN CLASS. This step and the previous one are repeated and alternated for more problems.

Peer Review

As a GROUP, students review all 9 problems, selecting the 4 which they feel are most similar and providing a written rationale for their response. This is done IN CLASS.

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