, Volume 38, Issue 1-3, pp 51-66

Intuitive rules: A way to explain and predict students' reasoning

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Through our work in mathematics and science education we have observed that students react similarly to a wide variety of conceptually unrelated situations. Our work suggests that many responses which the literature describes as alternative conceptions could be interpreted as evolving from common, intuitive rules. This paper describes and discusses one such rule, manifested when two systems are equal with respect to a certain quantity A but differ in another quantity B. We found that in such situations, students often argue that ‘Same amount of A implies same amount of B’. Our claim is that such responses are specific instances of the intuitive rule ‘Same A—same B’. This approach explains common sources for students'; conceptions and has strong predictive power.

This revised version was published online in September 2005 with corrections to the Cover Date.