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Comment Good Tests and Bad Calculators (Score 1) 870

I've got a Physics degree and I currently tutor lower level college physics, so I've seen a hell of a lot of physics tests.

The best solution to your problem is a low tech one. Crappy scientific calculators. In my opinion you're already giving your students a huge advantage (too huge IMO) by giving them notes, they shouldn't need any fancy devices. I got my degree before the days of smartphones and the like but I did have my trusty TI-89 and for me this wasn't a good thing. Having such a powerful calculator only served to prevent me from actually learning the material. If the calculator can do everything for you you end up just teaching the students how to plug in numbers and write down (likely wrong) answers. It may get them through the class but they won't be any better off than they were to begin with. You may as well try and use mad libs to teach them to write.

Proper test design is the key. Come up with generic problem that you want, but then tune the numbers so that you get a lot of cancellations if the student is doing it right. Use polynomials and trig functions where integrals/derivatives are required, don't expect students to know integrals that you have to look up for yourself. If a student knows what they are doing then they shouldn't need a device that can do much more than any $10 scientific calculator. If they don't know what they are doing then they shouldn't get the grade that says they do.

As for the ones that say they need it for translation purposes, they're taking advantage of you. If they really are that bad with English then they've got no chance of getting through most of their other classes. That said, a picture is worth a thousand words. Most physics problems, especially mechanics ones, should be pretty easily represented by a drawing, and that requires no translation.

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