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What is Wrong with the Way We Teach Mechanics and How to Fix It

S. Sipcic
Journal / Anthology

Mathematica in Education and Research
Year: 1995
Volume: 4
Issue: 4
Page range: 5-13

The starting point of this paper is a belief that the current approach to teaching undergraduate mechanics does not convey the true intellectual content of the subject. Successful students can solve certain carefully chosen problems, but they can not explain what their solutions mean. More seriously, they have difficulty applying what they have learned to their other studies because little attention is paid to teaching them how to formulate a problem and interpret the resulting solution. The paper argues for a large-scale revision of the traditional approach to teaching mechanics. The methodology proposed emphasizes open-ended problems, engineering design, and computer-based analysis of solutions (including both the classical numerical methods and symbolic methods). The use of technology is an important component that enables the approach. In the paper we show how technology may be used as a tool for illustration, experimentation, and "discovery". Being equipped with these tools students will be able to set up problems, try different solution procedures, visualize solutions, interpret what they see, and evaluate the validity of their computation. The use of technologies such as video and CD-ROM, although very important components of the revision, are not discussed in this paper.

*Science > Physics > Mechanics