Science & Education

, Volume 22, Issue 5, pp 1043–1068 | Cite as

Could HPS Improve Problem-Solving?

  • Ricardo Lopes Coelho


It is generally accepted nowadays that History and Philosophy of Science (HPS) is useful in understanding scientific concepts, theories and even some experiments. Problem-solving strategies are a significant topic, since students’ careers depend on their skill to solve problems. These are the reasons for addressing the question of whether problem solving could be improved by means of HPS. Three typical problems in introductory courses of mechanics—the inclined plane, the simple pendulum and the Atwood machine—are taken as the object of the present study. The solving strategies of these problems in the eighteenth and nineteenth century constitute the historical component of the study. Its philosophical component stems from the foundations of mechanics research literature. The use of HPS leads us to see those problems in a different way. These different ways can be tested, for which experiments are proposed. The traditional solving strategies for the incline and pendulum problems are adequate for some situations but not in general. The recourse to apparent weights in the Atwood machine problem leads us to a new insight and a solving strategy for composed Atwood machines. Educational implications also concern the development of logical thinking by means of the variety of lines of thought provided by HPS.


Incline Plane Free Fall Gravitational Mass Simple Pendulum Local Acceleration 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of SciencesUniversity of LisbonLisbonPortugal

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