What part of the concept of acceleration is difficult to understand: The mathematics, the physics, or both?


ZDM - International Journal on Mathematics Education, vol.42, no.5, pp.469-482, 2010 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier


In this paper, details of student difficulties in understanding the concept of acceleration and the mathematical and physical/intuitive sources of these are delineated by utilizing the teaching experiment methodology. As a result of the study, two anchoring analogies are proposed that can be used as a diagnostic tool for students' alternative conceptions. These can be used in teaching to highlight the peculiarity of acceleration concept. This study portrays how seeing acceleration as 'rate of change' of a quantity (velocity) and recognizing the consequences of such a definition are hindered in certain ways which in turn negatively affect learning the concept of force. This is also an example that illustrates that a rather "simple" mathematical concept (i.e., rate of change) for the expert can become a complex phenomenon when embedded in a physical concept (i.e., acceleration) which is consistently found to be as a misconception among learners at various levels that is widely occurring and very resistant to change. © FIZ Karlsruhe 2009.