Reasoning About Algebraic Equations In Physics

C. W. Liew, Lafayette College; Joel A. Shapiro and Donald E. Smith, Rutgers University

One of the key components of an Intelligent Tutoring System (ITS) is the mechanism for reasoning about the student’s input. This component affects the kinds of questions that can be asked, which in turn affects both the kinds of lesson material supported and the success of the ITS itself. It affects how precisely the system can pinpoint student errors and thus the subsequent help that the system provides. This paper describes an example of a class of Physics problems whose answers are most naturally represented as algebraic equations. We describe how our system, the PHYSICS-TUTOR, supports such a mechanism and the reasoning underlying it. Analyzing such input requires not only an understanding of algebra but also knowledge of physics concepts.

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