PathPlan is a digital learning platform designed to teach students how to systematically solve problems. It demphasizes the answer and reinforces the process of solving problems. PathPlan is not a stand-alone program; it assumes there are human instructors, tutors, and friends to “fill-in” the gaps.
Practice slowly, learn quickly.
The problem PathPlan Addresses
Currently students learn to solve problems, at best, by emulating the procedure shown in class, recitation or in the book, or by simply looking up the answer online. Most often students try to use expert short-cuts without understanding the steps they are skipping. Moreover, they then perceive mechanics to be a disjointed set of concepts focused on the objects, not the concepts. PathPlan integrates the physical concepts with multiple pictorial representations which then can be translated to the mathematical representation so the student can learn the application of the concepts and how to problem solve systematically and with confidence.
PathPlan Mechanics gives students 6 generalized procedures to solve Mechanics problems with: Kinematics, Forces, Energy, Momentum, Torques and Angular Momentum. These procedures are fixed and allow students to memorize the procedure, not the problems, implicitly through practice. Memorized procedures which include self-checks are then used on tests and homework to solve problems systematically and with confidence. Students also learn to solve problems which require multiple or repeated approaches, by dividing up the problem into its approaches, solving each separately and then combining the results mastering not just physics problems but problem solving in general thanks to the overall meta-approach of the PathPlan system. Cheating is not an issue since all questions need all the steps to be filled out for partial credit and to be allowed to proceed. Thus “cheating” is at most a detailed example students must still work through.
Premise: The role of a simple question is to teach methodology, not obtain a quick answer.
PathPlan Mechanics includes two different types of questions: exercises and problems. In analogy with a drill in sports, an exercise question’s purpose is to have the student practice using a single approach and understand the application of the concepts in that approach. As in sports where a game requires the use of all the skills learned in drills, problems require the application of multiple approaches and it is up to the student to decide which to chose and how to combine them. PathPlan Mechanics thus empowers students with advanced problem solving skills built up in incremental steps making the path to expert problem solving much shorter.