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Interrogating Formulae

Here again one of my tutors is advocating on the part of the students, this time with regard to formulas.

Many students have a simplistic view of what a formula can be used for. They see it as a ‘black box’ that turns given information into answers and if they choose the formula that the teacher is using, they will get the ‘right’ answer.

This video attempts to demonstrate that formulas are much more than this, that they illuminate a relationship and can therefore be used to understand the world around us by asking the formula simple “what if” questions.

The basic formula F=ma describes a complexity of motion types by considering the different types of forces that might cause a mass to accelerate… or not.

Learning & Teaching Materials

  • The Challenge activity provides each small student group with two formula one being F=ma and the other relating to the type of force e.g. F=-kx. Then there is a series of questions asking the students to represent the motion of the object graphically in different situations e.g. What is the velocity of the object with respect to its displacement from the origin?
  • Video watching activity sheet
  • The Workshop PowerPoint has a brief lesson plan and the focus activity which asks the students to match pre-constructed graphs and diagrams to formula. The students find there is sometimes more than one way to diagramaticly represent a formula and often many formula that can be represented by the same graph.
  • Focus activity sheet
  • In this WIO workshop you will see there are several challenges. I am usually working with around seventy students and I get them to work in groups of between four and six on one of the challenges. So there are between 12 and 17 groups working on each of the four challenges. This means I only have to have four groups (one for each challenge) presenting at the end. It also means that there are enough students in the audience who have attempted the challenge and are therefore well positioned to help with the critical analysis of the presenting groups work.

All videos available for use under a Creative Commons Australia CC-BY-NC licence