Saturday, August 18, 2012

What Mathematicians Might Learn From Physicists: Response to Hansen

Some blog followers might be interested in a recent discussion-list post “What Mathematicians Might Learn From Physicists: Response to Hansen” [Hake (2012)]. The abstract reads:

ABSTRACT: In response to my post “What Mathematicians Might Learn From Physicists” [Hake (2012b)] at, MathTeach's Robert Hansen (2012) at first quoted from David Bressoud's (2012a) “Learning from the Physicists” at

“Unfortunately, the experience of the physicists. . . . [[according to Henderson et al. at]]. . . ., demonstrates that the existence of research based instructional strategies. . . . [[RBIS]]. . . . together with documentation of their effectiveness is not sufficient to guarantee their widespread adoption. Why not?. . . . . The work that they have done via surveys of physics faculty demonstrates that the greatest problem is not in making faculty aware of what has been done, or even in getting faculty to try different approaches to teaching. THE GREATEST PROBLEM IS IN GETTING FACULTY TO STICK WITH THESE STRATEGIES.” [My CAPS.]

Hansen then proceeded to ignore Bressoud’s answer: “The greatest problem is in getting faculty to stick with these strategies” as derived from Henderson et al. and give his own answers to Bressoud's question: “Why doesn't the existence of RBIS together with documentation of their effectiveness guarantee their widespread adoption?” [paraphrasing in an attempt to eliminate at least some of Hansen’s ambiguity, illiteracy, imprecision, redundancy, and verbosity - Robert please correct me if you think my paraphrasing distorts your intended meaning]:

The physicists' research based instructional strategies [RBIS]:

1. appear very compromised, designed as they are for only academically uninterested terminal students;

2. lack the essentials for academically interested students: rigor, detail, development, and challenge;

3. claim to be “successful,” but here the accepted notion of “success” is replaced with something entirely different;

4. doomed because they don't produce advocates.

In this post I show that Hansen’s four answers (above) to Bressoud’s question are all blatantly incorrect.

To access the complete 41 kB post please click on

Richard Hake, Emeritus Professor of Physics, Indiana University
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REFERENCES [URL shortened by and accessed on 18 August 2012.
Hake, R.R. 2012. “What Mathematicians Might Learn From Physicists: Response to Hansen” online on the OPEN AERA-L archives at Post of 18 Aug 2012 14:55:51-0700 to AERA-L and Net-Gold. The abstract and link to the complete post are being transmitted to several discussion lists.

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