21st Century Science Teaching: Getting students beyond formula hunting strategies

Problem-solving is a major part of a physics course. When confronted with challenging problems it is common to hear students say: “If I had the formula, I could solve this.” After all, finding the right equation is a key element in most textbooks’ problem-solving strategies and is often reinforced in the classroom through lectures, quizzes and tests. In most cases, by using appropriate equations, a student is able to find the correct answer, but I will argue that finding the correct answer to a problem does not necessarily reflect a deep understanding of physics concepts.