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Similar Density Questions with Very Different Results Documents

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Similar Density Questions with Very Different Results 

written by Ashley Lindow, Elizabeth Carbone, and Doris J. Wagner

While developing a standardized fluids assessment covering buoyancy and pressure, we discovered deficiencies in student understanding of density. In particular, many college students do not recognize that density is a fixed property of a solid substance, such as aluminum or gold. We added questions to our diagnostic exam to probe the extent of student difficulties. In one of our questions, only 50-60% of students (depending upon class) recognize that the density of gold is a fixed value. When similar questions from an existing diagnostic1 are used, however, 88-100% of students correctly identify the density of a piece of wood and of a diamond as fixed values. In this paper we discuss the differences between these questions and how those differences affect student responses.
1 Yeend's Density Survey.

Published February 1, 2014
Last Modified January 31, 2014

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