Why did we need to do research on student difficulties? We could have just asked them.

I’m having problems trying to figure out the difference in acceleration and velocity. They seem as if they are identical when reading the definitions. If velocity is the change in position, and acceleration is the rate of the object changing its velocity or “position,” then they sound like the same thing to me. Im confused about velocity and acceleration.

The text said that “velocity is a measure of how fast an object’s position is changing with time” and that “acceleration is a measure of how fast that object’s velocity is changing with time”. Does this mean that acceleration is the change in position as well? And if not, then what is the difference between acceleration and velocity? I took a guess in my answer above, but I’m not sure that it is correct.

I’m confused with acceleration and speed; I think I know what it is but I still need to take a second to make sure I dont get them mixed up because the definitions are similar.


(added later): I want to emphasize that I’m posting these quotes (from my online / pre-class reading quiz) because I’m in awe of how articulate and aware these students are about what’s confusing them. I’m not posting them because I’m trying to parade around examples of how students don’t understand things. The ideas of velocity and acceleration are incredibly subtle and difficult to grasp. These students are mature in monitoring their own understanding, and are better off for having located the areas in which they don’t feel like things are making sense. They also think that this should make sense, which is something we want to see in our students. The second reason for posting this is because these students are not just articulate about what might be confusing them, they are (according to research) quite accurate. Certainly, it’s a good thing for me as a teacher to know about the things that my students are struggling to understand, but it’s likely a better thing that students know what they are struggling to understand.


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