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The Zambian Ministry of Finance, Department of planning, The Zambian vision 2030. (2006). Retrieved from www.mof.gov.zm (10/11/17).

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Article

Investigating Students’ Physico-mathematical Difficulties in Classical Mechanics and Designing an Instructional Model

1Department of Physics, The Copperbelt University, Kitwe, Zambia

2Department of Mathematics and Science Education, The Copperbelt University, Kitwe, Zambia


American Journal of Educational Research. 2018, Vol. 6 No. 8, 1127-1136
DOI: 10.12691/education-6-8-10
Copyright © 2018 Science and Education Publishing

Cite this paper:
Danny Mutambo, Gurudas T. Baliga, Leonard Nkhata. Investigating Students’ Physico-mathematical Difficulties in Classical Mechanics and Designing an Instructional Model. American Journal of Educational Research. 2018; 6(8):1127-1136. doi: 10.12691/education-6-8-10.

Correspondence to: Danny  Mutambo, Department of Physics, The Copperbelt University, Kitwe, Zambia. Email: danny.mutambo@cbu.ac.zm

Abstract

The study investigated students’ physico-mathematical difficulties in classical mechanics and designed an instructional model. The three objectives that guided the study were namely: to identify physico-mathematical difficulties students have in classical mechanics, to explore the existing instructional models and design a suitable instructional model to address physico-mathematical difficulties in classical mechanics and to verify and evaluate the effectiveness of the designed instructional model. The study was undertaken with a purposive sample of 140 students and 10 instructors learning and teaching classical mechanics respectively from the Copperbelt University and Mukuba University on the Copperbelt Province of Zambia. A descriptive mixed method survey design approach was used. A pilot study was conducted, instruments adjusted and survey implemented, instructional model designed and evaluated for its effectiveness. Four achievement tests comprising physico-mathematical concepts, the questionnaire, interviews and focus group discussions were used to collect data. The Microsoft Excel package was used to generate tables and percentages. Qualitative data from interview and focus group discussions were analysed qualitatively by the MAXQDA (Max Qualitative Data Analysis) software. The results of the study revealed that students had physico-mathematical difficulties in classical mechanics bordering on the students’ inabilities to use vectors, graphs, functions and mathematization in classical mechanics. Furthermore, it was found that the strategy of teaching mathematical concepts before introducing concepts in classical mechanics was used at the two institutions. However, these physico-mathematical difficulties still persisted. Therefore, the study recommended that instructors in classical mechanics should have necessary background information about students before teaching them. Information includes the prior knowledge of students. The study also recommended that instructors use suitable learning methods or materials that would engage students or make abstract physico-mathematical concepts more observable.

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