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Arrows as anchors: Conceptual blending and student use of electric field vector arrows Documents

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Arrows as anchors: Conceptual blending and student use of electric field vector arrows 

written by Elizabeth Gire and Edward Price

We use the theory of conceptual blending with material anchors to describe how people make meaning of the vector arrows representation of electric fields. We describe this representation as a conceptual blend of a spatial (coordinate) input space and an electric-field-as-arrows space (which itself is a blend of electric field concept with arrows). This representation possesses material features including the use of spatial extent (e.g., distance on paper) to represent the coordinate space and to represent the magnitude of electric field vectors. As a result, this representation supports a geometric interpretation of the electric field, breaking the field into components, and the addition of two fields at a point. The material features also emphasize the spatial relationships between the source(s) and points where the field is represented. However, the material features also necessitate sampling and do not generally support the rapid superposition of two fields at all points. We illustrate this analysis with examples from clinical problem-solving interviews with upper-division physics majors, and interpret students' errors in using this representation as resulting from conflict between the input spaces in the blend.

Published January 24, 2013
Last Modified June 21, 2013