The physics learning problem that students usually regard equations and other symbols in physics as algebraic exercises rather than representations of real world phenomena is commonly known. This article discusses how the Web-based interactive instructional materials were used to help students connect the symbolic world and the real world. The instructional design model and two examples of the learning activities are described. Implication type (large class discussion vs. small group learning), numerical problem solving ability, prior physics ability, and prior mathematics ability were analyzed while investigating student achievement in understanding the symbolic representations. The results show that students who scored higher on the symbolic understanding test also had higher scores on the numerical problem solving test. No significant differences were found on the symbolic understanding test for students with different prior physics and mathematics abilities as well as for students who received different implementation types. The reasons for these findings are discussed at the end of this article.
The meeting of the national association for research in science teaching