program_wb_i - page 137

July 26–30, 2014
Wednesday morning
Session TOP09: Physics on the Road:
Developing a Manual
Location: STSS 230
Sponsor: Committee on Science Education for the Public
Co-Sponsor: Committee on Professional Concerns
Date: Wednesday, July 30
Time: 11:30 a.m.–1 p.m.
Presider: Steve Shropshire
Join demonstration and outreach experts in a panel discussion on ongoing
efforts to develop a “How-To” guide for physics on the road outreach.
Session TOP11: The 5th Internation-
al Conference on Women in Physics
Location: STSS 330
Sponsor: Committee on Women in Physics
Co-Sponsor: Committee on International Physics Education
Date: Wednesday, July 30
Time: 11:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.
Presider: TBA
The 5th International Conference on Women in Physics will be held in
Canada in August 2014. Come hear about plans for the conference.
Session GA: PER: Examining Content
Understanding and Reasoning
Location: STSS 220
Sponsor: AAPT
Date: Wednesday, July 30
Time: 1–3 p.m.
Presider: Hunter Close
1-1:10 p.m. Vector Addition in Different Contexts: A
Fine-Grained Study
Contributed – Philip B. Southey, University of Cape Town, 10 Zion Road,
Claremont, Cape Town, WC 7700 South Africa;
Saalih Allie, University of Cape Town
The acquisition metaphor of learning is often used by teachers of physics:
Students acquire a particular concept, and then transfer this concept to
new contexts. In particular, one might say students acquire the mathemat-
ical concept of “vector addition” and apply it in (transfer it to) numerous
physical contexts. In this study, 200 freshmen taking an introductory
physics course were asked to calculate the total force, total displacement
and total momentum in simple contexts involving vector addition at right
angles. Another similar group of 200 students were asked to calculate
the net force, net displacement, and net momentum. The students did
significantly worse when adding momenta, and they did significantly
better when asked to calculate the “net” quantity (rather than the “total”
quantity). These results are inconsistent with a basic “acquisition -transfer”
perspective of learning. A fine-grained analysis of subsequent interviews
and questionnaires was also conducted.
1:10-1:20 p.m. Adding and Subtracting Vectors: The
Problem with the Arrow Representation
Contributed – Andrew F. Heckler, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Thomas M. Scaife, University of Wisconsin - Platteville
While a number of studies have investigated student understanding
of vector addition and subtraction as relevant to introductory physics,
virtually all of these studies have only considered the arrow representa-
tion of vectors. In this study, we demonstrate that significantly -- and often
overwhelmingly -- more students can correctly add and subtract vectors in
the textual, component ijk-format compared to the arrow format in both
generic and physics contexts. Furthermore, by prompting students for
physical explanations of results, we find that students also exhibit an equal
if not better understanding in the ijk-format compared to the arrow for-
mat. The arrow format typically induces an intuitive application of arrows,
often resulting in incorrect answers. Overall, we find that the ijk-format
tends to prompt students to use the arrow format correctly (and not vice
versa), and this suggests that teaching the arrow format alone may not be
as productive as teaching both representations simultaneously.
1:20-1:30 p.m. Training Factors Affecting Improvement
in Student Fluency with Vector Algebra
Contributed – Brendon D. Mikula, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Andrew F. Heckler,The Ohio State University
In addition to struggling with deep comprehension of physics concepts,
students also struggle with essential, procedural skills that are necessary for
the types of problem solving expected of them during introductory physics
classes. Students in both semesters of introductory physics (mechanics and
E&M) and in multiple populations (algebra and calculus-based) have been
shown to struggle with the essential skills of computing vector compo-
nents and vector products. In this presentation, we present data on the
effectiveness of a number of training conditions on student fluency with
these vector skills. Through the use of simple computer-based training with
answer-based feedback, the effects of different types of feedback—as well as
the presentation order of sub-skills and concepts—are investigated.
1:30-1:40 p.m. Evaluating Mathematics Skills and
Impact in a First-Semester Mechanics Course
Contributed – William R. Evans, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign,
303 Paddock Dr. W, Apt A1, Savoy, IL 61874;
A collection of targeted math skills questions were developed and incor-
porated into the standard, weekly homework exercises in a first semester,
calculus-based mechanics course for science and engineering majors at
the University of Illinois. These questions were designed to test the math
skills that would nominally be used during the homework that week. This
presentation gives our analysis of the students’ performance on the math
skills questions as compared with the corresponding physics questions. We
conclude by discussing some of the implications of this study in regards
to transfer of learning and possible contributing factors toward student
difficulties in mechanics, as well as possibilities for improving student
performance in calculation-based exercises.
1:40-1:50 p.m. Student Strategies Solving Graphically
Based Physics Problems Invoking the Fundamental
Theorem of Calculus
Contributed – Rabindra R. Bajracharya, University of Maine, Orono, ME
John R. Thompson, University of Maine
We have been investigating student understanding and application of the
Fundamental Theorem of Calculus (FTC) in different physics contexts in-
volving definite integrals. We conducted 14 semi-structured individual in-
terviews with introductory physics students. Our analysis, using grounded
theory, elicited various strategies to solve graphically based FTC problems.
While many students struggled initially, at some point during the inter-
views students displayed the relevant and requisite mathematical knowl-
edge, suggesting that they failed to access and/or apply the knowledge in
the given physics contexts. Similar to prior studies on students dealing with
mathematically based physics problems, we found the analysis perspectives
of epistemological framing and epistemic games productive in interpret-
ing some of the choices of strategies, the strategies themselves, and some
individual steps observed. The framing perspective helps explain students’
strategy-switching based on representations available or context familiarity.
We discuss our findings and relate our results to those in the literature.
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