Dependence between creative and non-creative mathematical reasoning in national physics tests
It is known from previous studies that a focus on rote learning and procedural mathematical reasoning hamper students’ learning of mathematics. Since mathematics is an integral part of physics, it is assumed that mathematical reasoning also influences students’ success in physics. This paper aims to study how students’ ability to reason mathematically affects their success on different kinds of physics tasks. A descriptive statistical approach is adopted, which compares the ratio between conditional and unconditional probability to solve physics tasks requiring different kinds of mathematical reasoning. Tasks from eight Swedish national physics tests for upper secondary school, serve as a basis for the analysis. The result shows that if students succeed on tasks requiring creative mathematical reasoning, the probability to solve the other tasks on the same test increases. This increase is higher than if the students succeed on tasks not requiring creative mathematical reasoning. This result suggests that if students can reason mathematically creatively, they have the ability to use their knowledge in other novel situations and thus become more successful on tests.
Helena Johansson has a PhD in Mathematics, specialising in Educational Sciences and is a postdoc at Mid Sweden University. Her research interests concern students’ mathematical reasoning and how this competence influences students’ learning in mathematics and in physics; and how natural language influences students’ learning of the symbolic language of mathematics.