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2011 AAPT Summer Meeting
July 30-August 3, 2011
Omaha, Nebraska

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AG01:

Teaching Quantum Mechanics in the Paradigms in Physics Curriculum
  Location: SS Ballroom ABC
  Date: Monday, Aug.1
  Time: 8:00 AM -8:30 AM
  Author: David McIntyre, Oregon State University
541 737-1696, mcintyre@ucs.orst.edu
  Co-Author(s): None
  Abstract: To improve conceptual learning, the Paradigms in Physics program has reordered material from the subdisciplines and incorporated modern pedagogical strategies. In the quantum part of our curriculum, we adopt a "spins-first" approach by introducing quantum mechanics through the analysis of sequential Stern-Gerlach spin measurements. The aims of the spins-first approach are: (1) To immerse students in the inherently quantum mechanical aspects of physics, and (2) To give students experience with the mechanics of quantum mechanics in the forms of Dirac and matrix notation. To facilitate our spins-first approach, we use Stern-Gerlach simulation software to study measurements, interferometers, spin precession in a magnetic field, and "which-path" detection. We build upon the spins-first approach by using the spin-1/2 example to introduce perturbation theory, the addition of angular momentum, and identical particles. We use Dirac notation and matrix notation throughout our five quantum courses, emphasizing the importance of fluency in multiple representations.
  Footnotes: This material is based on work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Nos. 9653250, 0231194, and 0618877. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
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