Graphical Problem Solving in Physics

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Leader: Kelly O’Shea (Little Red Schoolhouse and Elisabeth Irwin High School)

Graphical methods for solving problems are elegant, connect to calculus, and support students who typically struggle with strict formulaic problem solving.  In this workshop, we will practice methods for solving kinematics and dynamics problems graphically using velocity-vs-time graphs and force vector addition diagrams. These approaches emphasize conceptual understanding and allow students to use diagrams as sensemaking tools while solving challenging quantitative problems. Students often enjoy thinking geometrically—and you’ve never seen as true a joy as when a student realizes she can use the Law of Sines outside of math class. We will also learn and practice student-centered discussion techniques through the use of “whiteboarding” (http://kellyoshea.wordpress.com/whiteboarding/). Participants should already feel comfortable with kinematics and Newton’s Laws to get the most out of this workshop.