Physics and Astronomy Colloquium – John Thompson
April 2 @ 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
UNC-CH Physics and Astronomy Colloquium
John Thompson, University of Maine
“Investigating student understanding at the physics-mathematics interface”
Because learning physics concepts often requires the ability to construct, interpret, and manipulate mathematical representations and formalism (e.g., equations, graphs, and diagrams), researchers in physics education and in mathematics education have been examining how students navigate this disciplinary interface. Our own research into student conceptual understanding of physics has led us to investigate how students use and reason about mathematics, especially calculus, to solve physics problems in several physics domains, particularly at the upper division. I will discuss findings from work at UMaine and elsewhere that describe student difficulties and successes at the physics-mathematics interface, as well as models and frameworks from both disciplines that help interpret data and that suggest pedagogical strategies to address students’ difficulties. Examples from student construction of differential quantities in vector calculus as used in electromagnetism as well as other concepts in thermal and statistical physics will be given.