Use of Diagrams in Solving Physics Problems

Gordon Novak and W. C. Bulko

Solving physics problems usually requires geometric reasoning; a computer problem solver must use a representation that is in some respects equivalent to the use of diagrams by human problem solvers. In this paper, we review the uses of diagrams and geometric reasoning in physics problem solving programs. Next, we consider the many roles that diagrams seem to play in human problem solving, the relative strengths and weaknesses of computers and human problem solvers for reasoning with diagram-like representations, and ways in which some of the uses of diagrams by humans might be implemented in computer programs.

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