Original Research

Development of an explanatory framework for the solution of electricity problems

Reuben D. Koontse, Jeanne Kriek
Suid-Afrikaanse Tydskrif vir Natuurwetenskap en Tegnologie | Vol 36, No 1 | a1442 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/satnt.v36i1.1442 | © 2017 Reuben D. Koontse, Jeanne Kriek | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 16 February 2017 | Published: 29 November 2017

About the author(s)

Reuben D. Koontse, Institute of Science and Technology, University of South Africa, South Africa
Jeanne Kriek, Institute of Science and Technology, University of South Africa, South Africa

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Problem solving is considered a higher order thinking skill and is included as one of the 21st century’s core competencies. To demonstrate how students’ use of a specific mathematical approach leads to a particular type of understanding when solving problems in electricity, an interpretive framework was developed. This interpretive framework combined two extensively used frameworks, namely Mathematical Resources (MR) and Extended Semantic Model (ESM) and was rationalised in electricity subtopics namely electric circuit, electric force and electric field. An interpretivist research paradigm was chosen to explain and derive meaning from fifteen first year physics students’ mathematical approaches in solving electricity problems. In general, students were found to be more inclined to activate formal mathematical rules, even when the use of basic or everyday mathematics that require activation of intuitive knowledge elements and reasoning primitives, would be more efficient. The need for a qualitative approach to solving physics problems rather than a quantitative one was presented and this has implications for future approaches to teaching science.


interpretive framework; mathematics in physics; electricity problem solving; knowledge domains; mathematical approaches; role of mathematics in physics


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