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Mathematical Reasoning Requirements in Swedish National Physics Tests

Journal article, 2016

This paper focuses on one aspect of mathematical competence, namely mathematical reasoning, and how this competency influences students’ knowing of physics. This influence was studied by analysing the mathematical reasoning requirements upper secondary students meet when solving tasks in national physics tests. National tests are constructed to mirror the goals stated in the curricula, and these goals are similar across national borders. The framework used for characterising the mathematical reasoning required to solve the tasks in the national physics tests distinguishes between imitative and creative mathematical reasoning. The analysis process consisted of structured comparisons between representative student solutions and the students’ educational history. Of the 209 analysed tasks, 3/4 required mathematical reasoning in order to be solved. Creative mathematical reasoning, which, in particular, involves reasoning based on intrinsic properties, was required for 1/3 of the tasks. The results in this paper give strong evidence that creative mathematical reasoning is required to achieve higher grades on the tests. It is also confirmed that mathematical reasoning is an important and integral part of the physics curricula; and, it is suggested that the ability to use creative mathematical reasoning is necessary to fully master the curricula.

Creative mathematical reasoning Mathematical reasoning Physics tests Swedish national assessment Upper secondary school