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Freshman Physics and Heavy Boots (Richard Kershenbaum)
(true, science, smirk)

The following was sent to me by Dr.Adrian Melott, Associate Professor of
Physics and Astronomy here at the University of Kansas:


I put two multiple choice questions on my Physics 111 test, after the study of
elementary mechanics and gravity:

13. If you are standing on the Moon, and holding a rock, and you let it
    go, it will:
	(a) float away
	(b) float where it is
	(c) move sideways
	(d) fall to the ground
	(e) none of the above

25. When the Apollo astronauts wre on the Moon, they did not fall off because:
	(a) the Earth's gravity extends to the Moon
	(b) the Moon has gravity
	(c) they wore heavy boots
	(d) they had safety ropes
	(e) they had spiked shoes

	The response showed some interesting patterns!  The first question
was generally of average difficulty, compared with the rest of the test:
57% got it right.   The second question was easier: 73% got it right.

	So, we need more research to explain the people who got #25 right
but did not get #13 right!

	The second interesting point is that these questions proved to be
excellent discriminators:  that is, success on these two questions proved to
be an extremely good predictor of overall success on the test. 

	On the first question, 92% of those in the upper quarter of the test
score got it right; only 20% of those in the bottom quarter did.  They generally
chose answers (a) or (b).  On the second question, 97% in the upper quarter
got it right and 33% in the lower quarter did.  The big popular choice of
this group was (c)...33% chose heavy boots, followed closely by safety ropes
at 27%.

	A telling comment on the issue of fairness in teaching elementary
physics:  Two students asked if I was going to continue asking them about
things they had never studied in the class.

			Adrian Melott

(From the "Rest" of RHF)

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