Reflection: Developing a Conceptual Understanding Using Simulations to Investigate Forces - Section 4: Forces and Motion Basics Simulation


I believe that sharing authority within a learning community helps to transform the mindset of students by increasing their buy-in during complex activities. At this point in the semester, students have worked with mathematical, physical and theory-driven models of physics concepts. With this in mind, I thought it would be a good time to introduce a guided inquiry simulation-based lab that students use to study forces and motion. I ask students to identify new concepts that they learn using the simulation. Some students answer, "Applying twice the force to the same object makes it double its speed" and "Adding friction makes it hard to move objects by applying a force." 

During the EDpuzzle activity, students make connections to concepts like acceleration, velocity, speed and displacement from an earlier unit. Within this lesson, I give students a guided lab where the constraints of each system are easy to control in order construct an explanation of forces both in the absence of friction and when friction is considered. The idea that there is no one "correct" answer puzzles several students. I remind students that physics is model-dependent and although we are able to mathematically describe forces, the current models have limits in real scenarios. I believe that the flexibility to use research to replace or extend incomplete models is an essential part of learning and practicing physics.

  Guided Inquiry
  Developing a Conceptual Understanding: Guided Inquiry
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Using Simulations to Investigate Forces

Unit 4: Forces and Newton's Laws
Lesson 3 of 12

Objective: Using a simulation, students will demonstrate an understanding of how forces change motion.

Big Idea: Simulations are a great way to study and learn about forces and motion.

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