University of Bridgeport STEM Education Seminar: Dr. Suzanne Brahmia
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Dr. Suzanne Brahmia Title: Developing mathematical creativity: Physics Invention Tasks Abstract: Modeling the creative mathematical sensemaking that characterizes expert thinking in physics is typically a struggle for new learners. To help students learn to reason this way, we’ve created a set of supplemental activities called Physics Invention Tasks (PITs). PITs engage students in quantification, the process of mathematically generating quantities central to modeling in physics. PITs depict a scenario in which students need to engage in decision-making associated with creating quantities in order to resolve a problem. Students make decisions about the arithmetic construction, the magnitude and associated unit, and in some cases spatial direction of a new quantity. The design of PITs is informed by the work of Dan Schwartz at Stanford, Inventing with Contrasting Cases, an instructional approach shown to foster generativity, i.e., creativity with mathematical structures. In this talk, I’ll describe the theoretical foundation of PITs, and their structure and implementation. I’ll share preliminary observations of the impact of PITs in a calculus-based introductory mechanics course as measured by the FCI and CLASS. Using these standard measures of physics instruction, we see improvements in both conceptual learning and in student attitudes and beliefs about mathematical thinking in physics when PITs are introduced into a transformed course. I’ll discuss the implications for physics instruction at all levels.
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The STEM Education Seminar Series is sponsored by the Helmsley Charitable Trust.