I checked out a copy of our Holt, Rinehart, Winston Physics textbook and the situation is grim. The text stabs forcefully at conceptual development with questions like this:
But these interludes of open-ended, critical inquiry are preceded by example problems like this:
… which are meant to drive practice problems like this:
Which kills me, of course. Basically, the students are taught to identify the relevant formula, match the given information to variables in that formula, and solve for the unknown variable. Helpfully, all the given information will find its way into the formula somewhere. Helpfully, the practice problem will reference the relevant sample problem in case the student forgot the relevant formula.
What we have here, essentially, is a compelling passage of conceptual development thoroughly undercut by practice problems which promote thuddingly linear and literal inquiry. Essentially, we have Holt tossing cupfuls of water onto a raging fire while Rinehart and Winston dump gallon after gallon of gasoline onto it from the other side. I mean, we aren’t even pretending to prepare our students to apply this stuff creatively, to the world around them. Because out there, in the world, no one will helpfully tell them what chapter of the book they’re looking at, no one will helpfully reference the relevant sample problem.
And so I tell myself:
Be less helpful.