Jonathan Bratt

Problem-Solving Tutorials for Physics

Blog Post created by Jonathan Bratt on Jul 15, 2016

One challenge for online homework systems is to evaluate and offer feedback—not only on the final answer to a problem, but also on the entire problem-solving process. The Sapling Learning physics team is exploring new ways to provide targeted feedback for multi-step problems. An example using the tutorial capability of our software is item 77360, which applies Newton’s laws of motion to a two-object system. The screenshot (image 1) below shows the problem setup.


To solve this problem, a student must complete several steps, including


  •    Drawing free-body diagrams for each object
  •    Choosing appropriate coordinate systems
  •    Resolving vectors into components
  •    Applying the second law of motion to each object
  •    Solving the resulting system of equations


The tutorial guides the student through each of these steps. Every step is designed to allow significant freedom of response while providing immediate feedback to reinforce the problem-solving process. For example, the first two tutorial steps require the student to draw free-body diagrams using our system’s vector drawing tool. The screenshot (image 2) below shows feedback for an incorrectly drawn diagram.


Other problem-solving tutorials currently in the Sapling Learning physics library include applications of energy conservation using Ampère’s law. Our physics team welcomes your feedback on these tutorials as we continue to develop rich problem-solving content. We look forward to hearing how these tools are being used to enhance learning in your classes.


Image 1:


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Image 2:


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