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Student use of a material anchor for quantum wave functions Documents

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Student use of a material anchor for quantum wave functions 

written by Catherine C. Schiber, Hunter G. Close, Eleanor W. Close, and David Donnelly

We explain the appropriate use of pipe cleaners to represent quantum wave functions in terms of material anchors. We then analyze the actions of one undergraduate quantum mechanics student in an oral exam situation with two related tasks, both involving the visualization of a 3-d structure to represent the real and imaginary parts of the wave function on one spatial coordinate. Instruction before the exam included several in-class activities involving building 3-d representations of wave functions for several potentials using pipe cleaners. Though the oral exam did not specify that students should or should not use pipe cleaners, the student in this analysis brought and used them successfully during the exam. Analysis of the students' use of this tool shows promise of benefit to future students in a more highly structured environment of instruction and assessment.

Published February 1, 2014
Last Modified January 31, 2014

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