I think most physics teachers would agree that two important components of a proper solution to a numerical physics problem are to first figure out a final symbolic solution and to only plug in numbers in the end. However, in spite of our best efforts, this is not what the majority of students is actually doing. Instead, they tend to plug numbers into formulas without considering the physical meaning of the equations, then frequently take the result and plug it into the next formula—a strategy known as “plug-and-chug.” In this chain of calculations, frequently physical insights are lost. If teaching problem solving is proving ineffective, maybe it is possible to steer students onto the right path by posing the problems in different ways?
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Gerd Kortemeyer; The Losing Battle Against Plug-and-Chug. Phys. Teach. 1 January 2016; 54 (1): 14–17. https://doi.org/10.1119/1.4937964
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