A conceptual approach to physics problem solving

Jennifer L. Docktor, Natalie E. Strand, José P. Mestre, Brian H. Ross

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Students in introductory physics courses treat problem solving as an exercise in manipulating equations, symbols, and quantities with the goal of obtaining the correct answer. Although this approach is efficient for getting answers, it is far from optimal for learning how conceptual knowledge is applied in the problem-solving process. The goal of this study is to refine and evaluate an approach that encourages students to begin by writing a strategic analysis of a problem based on principles and procedures, and then to follow with a documented problem solution that exhibits, side-by-side, how concepts and equations go together in a solution. We will discuss the implementation and effectiveness of this approach in four local high school classrooms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication2010 Physics Education Research Conference, PERC
Number of pages4
StatePublished - 2010
Event2010 Physics Education Research Conference, PERC - Portland, OR, United States
Duration: Jul 21 2010Jul 22 2010

Publication series

NameAIP Conference Proceedings
ISSN (Print)0094-243X
ISSN (Electronic)1551-7616


Other2010 Physics Education Research Conference, PERC
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityPortland, OR


  • conceptual
  • problem solving
  • strategy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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