Math & Science…A New Context Isn’t a New Problem: Strategies to Help Students Transfer Skills

Author: Tasha Richardson, Teacher – TDSB, @tadric3EM

As a physics teacher, I have always been very interested in students’ abilities to apply previously learned mathematical skills in the classroom. This interest stems from my observations of common mistakes students make on what might be viewed as “type” questions (such as the equations for projectiles, or resistors in parallel). In an effort to understand why students some mistakes are more common than others, I have collaborated with colleagues over the years to try to understand students’ abilities to manipulate the mathematical equations found in science. To this end, we designed a multiple-choice diagnostic, in which students were given a list of equations found in the science curricula and asked which rearrangements were correct (example provided below). If students were unable to rearrange an equation, we asked them not to guess.

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