At a Glance

Discipline

  • Physics

Instructional Level

  • College & CEGEP

Course

  • Mechanics

Tasks in Workflow

Social Plane(s)

  • Individual
  • Group
  • Whole Class

Type of Tasks

  • Discussing
  • Solving problems

Technical Details

Class size

  • Small (20-49)

Time

Single class period (< 90 mins)

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 ...

Read More +

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.

Read Less -

Instructional 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.

Workflow & Materials

Activity Workflow

Problem Sorting

Download

Contributor's Notes

Sameer Bhatnagar
Sameer Bhatnagar

Dawson College, Montreal, QC

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.

Applied Strategies

  1. 1
    Problem-Based Learning
  2. 2
    Debates

Feedback

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