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Physics Education Research and Development Group

Context Rich Problems compared to Traditional Problems

Traditional Problem

Cart A, which is moving with a constant velocity of 3 m/s, has an inelastic collision with cart B, which is initially at rest as shown in Figure 8.3. After the collision, the carts move together up an inclined plane. Neglecting friction, determine the vertical height h of the carts before they reverse direction.

There are several parts of a traditional textbook problem that make it inappropiate for group work:

  1. Unreal objects that do not tie physics to the real world.
  2. Physics is clearly spelled out for the students hence robbong the group of an important decision.
  3. Assumptions are clearly spelled out again robbing the groups of a decision.
  4. A picture is included which denies the group a decision
  5. Varibles are pre-defined for the students.

The following context rich problem is the same problem, only it avoids the pitfalls of the traditional problem.

Context-Rich Problem

You are helping your friend prepare for her next skate board exhibition. For her program, she plans to take a running start and then jump onto her heavy duty 15-lb stationary skateboard. She and the skateboard will glide in a straight line along a short, level section of track, then up a sloped concrete wall. She wants to reach a height of at least 10 feet above where she started before she turns to come back down the slope. She has measured her maximum running speed to safely jump on the skateboard at 7 feet/second. She knows you have taken physics, so she wants you to determine if she can carry out her program as planned. She tells you that she weighs 100 lbs.

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  • Last modified on October 15, 2012