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Abstract Title: Exploring student understanding of atoms and radiation
Abstract: While developing inquiry materials on radioactivity, we uncovered substantial student difficulties with thinking of atoms as both sources and victims of ionizing radiation.  Most students in a survey level physics course initially had only vague ideas about the structure of atoms and the roles of protons, neutrons, and electrons.  None invoked electrostatic attraction to explain why electrons stay near nuclei.  Developing new, productive ideas about atoms was nontrivial.

We created inquiry based activities that employ a new simulator (Atom Builder) that allows students to manipulate one atom at a time and observe its behavior.  Student knowledge of atomic structure and ionization improved dramatically but certain basic ideas remain elusive for many students.  

We will present ways of thinking about atoms that students brought to the classroom, and that they developed using the simulator.
Abstract Type: Contributed Poster

Contributed Poster

Contributed Poster: Download the Contributed Poster

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Andy Johnson
Black Hills State University
910 8th St
Spearfish, SD 57783
Phone: 605-722-6873
Co-Author(s)
and Co-Presenter(s)
Anna Hafele, Black Hills State University