My area is Physics Education Research (PER). I study the ways physics is taught by instructors and learned by students using a mixture of quantitative and qualitative techniques.
I am particularly interested in the ways algebra is used in introductory physics. While many of the rules and symbols used in algebra classes are the same as those used in physics classes, there are important differences that lead to confusion. I am interested in identifying these differences and developing recommendations for physics instructors as well as students.
For my dissertation I performed multiple studies that compared performance on analogous numeric and purely symbolic physics problems. I show why students often perform far better on numeric problems than on otherwise equivalent symbolic problems. I also show that performance on symbolic problems are more strongly correlated to overall success than numeric problems.
Eugene Torigoe's Disseration
I am currently working on methods and instructional materials that will help students gain confidence solving problems with only symbols. My current focus is the design of numeric then symbolic problem pairs that can be used to help students make the transition to purely symbolic problem solving, as well as to highlight the advantages of solving problems symbolically rather than numerically. Below are some advantages of symbolic that are meant to be highlighted by these problem pairs:
You can find my first attempt at this link. I've interviewed some students with these questions. The aspects with the most impact have been when symbols cancel, and when the final symbolic solution is similar to a familiar equation. An example of the latter would be when solving a problem using kinematics you find that PE = mgh, which highlights the idea that you could have solved the problem with energy. If you are interested in this research and want to collaborate, then contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.