chapter  2
12 Pages

Taiwanese students’ ‘equilibrium’ reasoning

Fluency in linking Newton’s first and second laws
WithWheijen Chang

Words are polysemous in scientific usage, and definitions of terminologies are context dependent. This chapter contends that reasoning about ‘equilibrium’ is the crucial basis of solving problems involving Newton’s Laws; however, this concept may be much more profound and counter-intuitive than many students perceive. This study investigated 920 Taiwanese high school students’ ability to reason about ‘equilibrium’. The test consisted of 13 multiple-choice questions, which were developed from a pilot study consisting of 16 open-form questions and diagnosis interviews with more than 200 university students. The results showed that the students encountered serious difficulty in (1) determining the condition of ‘equilibrium’ (Newton’s first law), and (2) applying the strategy of ‘equilibrium’ to solve problems involving Newton’s second law. It was also found that the students of prestigious schools seemed to have little advantage in reasoning about ‘equilibrium’. Implications for the teacher’s role are also discussed.