We present a case study featuring a first-year bio-science university student using computation to solve a radioactive decay problem and interpret the results. In a semi-structured cognitive interview, we use this case to examine the process of sensemaking in a computational science context. We observe the student entering the sensemaking process by inspecting and comparing computational outputs. She then makes several attempts to resolve the perceived inconsistency, foregrounding knowledge from different domains. The key to making sense of the model for this student proves to be thinking about how to implement a better model computationally. This demonstrates that integrating computation in physics activities may provide students with opportunities to engage in sensemaking and critical thinking. We finally discuss some implications for instruction.
Sand, O. P., Odden, T. O. B., Lindstrøm, C., & Caballero, M. D. (2018). How computation can facilitate sensemaking about physics: A case study. In Physics Education Research Conference Proceedings (Vol. 2018). American Association of Physics Teachers. https://doi.org/10.1119/perc.2018.pr.sand