Mathematical Reasoning in Physics Tests - Requirements, Relations, Dependence
Licentiatavhandling, 2013

By analysing and expanding upon mathematical reasoning requirements in physics tests, this licentiate thesis aims to contribute to the research studying how students’ knowledge in mathematics influence their learning of physics. A sample of physics tests from the Swedish National Test Bank in Physics was used as data, together with information of upper secondary students’ scores and grades on the tests. First it was decided whether the tasks in the tests required mathematical reasoning at all and if they did, that reasoning was characterised. Further, the relation between students’ grades and mathematical reasoning requirements was examined. Another aim in this thesis is to try out if the Mantel-Haenszel procedure is an appropriate statistical method to answer questions about if there is a dependence between students’ success on different physics tasks requiring different kinds of mathematical reasoning. The results show that 75% of the tasks in the physics tests require mathematical reasoning and that it is impossible to pass six out of eight tests without mathematical reasoning. It is also revealed that it is uncommon that a student gets a higher grade than Pass without solving tasks that require the student to come up with not already familiar solutions. It is concluded that the Mantel-Haenszel procedure is sensitive to the number of students each teacher accounts for. If there are not too few students, the procedure can be used. The outcome indicates that there is a dependence between success on tasks requiring different kinds of reasoning. It is more likely that a student manages to solve a task that requires the produce of new reasoning if the student has solved a task that is familiar from before.

creative mathematical reasoning

upper secondary school

imitative reasoning

Mathematical reasoning

Mantel-Haenszel procedure.

physics tests

physics tasks

Opponent: Dr. Kerstin Pettersson, Vård och natur, Högskolan i Skövde


Helena Johansson

Göteborgs universitet

Chalmers, Matematiska vetenskaper




Preprint / Department of Mathematical Sciences, Chalmers University of Technology and Göteborg University: 2013:18


Opponent: Dr. Kerstin Pettersson, Vård och natur, Högskolan i Skövde

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