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Observations on student difficulties with mathematics in upper-division electricity and magnetism Documents

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Observations on student difficulties with mathematics in upper-division electricity and magnetism 

written by Rachel E. Pepper, Stephanie V. Chasteen, Steven J. Pollock, and Katherine K. Perkins

We discuss common difficulties in upper-division electricity and magnetism (E&M) in the areas of Gauss's law, vector calculus, and electric potential using both quantitative and qualitative evidence. We also show that many of these topical difficulties may be tied to student difficulties with mathematics. At the junior level, some students struggle to combine mathematical calculations and physics ideas, to account for the underlying spatial situation when doing a mathematical calculation, and to access appropriate mathematical tools. We discuss the implications of our findings for E&M instruction at the junior level.

This article is published by the American Physical Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. The citation is: R. Pepper, S. Chasteen, S. Pollock, and K. Perkins, Observations on student difficulties with mathematics in upper-division electricity and magnetism, Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 8 (1), 010111 (2012), 10.1103/PhysRevSTPER.8.010111.

Published March 27, 2012
Last Modified May 15, 2012

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