Thinking in Physics

The pleasure of reasoning and understanding
Author(s) Laurence Viennot
Sciences de la matière, Sciences
Offers practical examples of appropriate teaching practices.


Read this book if you want to know how to give students the intellectual pleasure of understanding physics. Read it even if you fear that this goal is out of reach – you may be surprised! Laurence Viennot shows ways to deal with the awkward fact that common sense thinking is often not the same as scientific thinking. She exposes frequent and widespread errors and misunderstandings, which provide a real eye-opener for the teacher. More than that, she shows ways to avoid and overcome them. The book argues against over-emphasis on “fun” applications, demonstrating that students also enjoy and value clear thinking.

The book has three parts:

  • making sense of special scientific ways of reasoning (words, images, functions),
  • making connections between very different topics, each illuminating the other,
  • simplifying, looking for consistency, and avoiding incoherent over-simplification.

It offers a magnificent supply of insight and ideas, all of which can be put to use no matter what physics programme you teach. The examples provided in this book shed light on the processes of teaching and popularization of physics, from the high school to the early undergraduate level.

“I recommend this book to all my colleagues engaged in teaching physics and other scientific disciplines, but also to students, future teachers and all those who take pleasure in understanding.” Guy Aubert


Laurence Viennot is emeritus professor at the Université Denis Diderot (Paris 7) and contributed to the creation of the LDPES (Laboratoire de Didactique de la Physique dans l'Enseignement Supérieur) laboratory, now part of the Laboratoire André Revuz. She has for a long time been responsible for the Master's course in science teaching, but devotes herself equally to training physics instructors. Her books and publications are recognised worldwide as sources of reference (Teaching Physics, Enquête sur le concept de causalité, etc.).

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Published on  October 20, 2017
Updated on  January 22, 2021