The questionnaire item "Guidance in solving problems / not enough practice
questions" received the third highest score (3.8 out of 5), and in the
open ended questions more practice problems was easily the most common
suggestion. I'd like to explore this item a little further, in its relationship
to quantitative reasoning in general.
Whilst they certainly have their uses, practice problems teach how
to solve a particular problem by reinforcing the solution through repetition.
For students in the course discipline (in our case physics) that might
well be very important. However, in a GE class few students will ever address
these problems directly once class is over. The main objective now becomes
to develop the skills and confidence to approach a wide range of problems
involving numbers, and in that respect practice problems might even be
counter productive, in that they focus narrowly on a particular issue without
addressing quantitative reasoning skills.