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Physics Education Research Conference 2017

July 26, 2017 - July 27, 2017 in the RiverCenter Convention Center in Cincinnati, Ohio

Conference Theme: Mathematization and Physics Education Research

The number of publications that are focusing on mathematics in physics is increasing, and there are increasing connections between PER and the Research in Undergraduate Mathematics Education (RUME) community.  As a result, we have chosen to highlight mathematization research at the 2017 PERC in Cincinnati. By mathematization, we refer to the spontaneous tendency to use mathematical concepts to quantify and make sense of the physical world. It is not about how well people can perform the procedures of mathematics. Rather, mathematization describes how people conceptualize the meaning of mathematics in the context of physics.

Expert-like mathematization in physics involves both a procedural and conceptual mastery of the prerequisite mathematics involved (Redish and Kuo, 2015; Thompson, 2011). Gray and Tall (1994) highlight this distinction, and refer to the target learning goal as proceptual understanding, in which procedural mastery and conceptual understanding coexist. When reasoning mathematically with physics quantities, many students become entrenched in a procedural approach.  Some students reach a high level of procedural efficiency without much conceptual mathematical understanding, while other students develop greater mathematical flexibility. An achievement gap emerges between those who perform procedurally and those who develop greater flexibility. Gray and Tall refer to this gap in early math learning as the proceptual divide.

The proceptual divide is evident in physics courses, where success depends on having a proceptual understanding of both the prerequisite math and the learned physics. For example, Brahmia, Boudreaux, and Kanim (under review) report on obstacles that many calculus level students encounter using basic proportional reasoning when it involves physics quantities and real numbers, rather than everyday quantities and whole numbers. Rebello et al. (2007) observed that most introductory physics students approach symbol-rich physics problems that involve calculus or trigonometry as a procedure, framing their task as one of answermaking instead of sensemaking.

Plenary speakers at the 2017 PERC will include mathematics education researchers Megan Wawro (Virginia Tech) and Michael Oehrtman (Oklahoma State University).

In addition, lunch on Thursday will include presentations honoring the early contributions of Lillian McDermott (University of Washington) and Joe Redish (University of Maryland) to the early development of mathematization as a research area (even though it wasn't called that at the time).  Andrew Boudreaux (Western Washington University), Ayush Gupta (University of Maryland), and David Meltzer (Arizona State University) will present.

The conference will include breakout sessions featuring poster and talk symposia, workshops, and, for the first time at PERC, juried talks.  Contributed poster sessions will include a venue for first-time presenters.    

Conference organizing committee

Steve Kanim (New Mexico State University)
Suzanne White Brahmia (University of Washington)
Michael Loverude (California State University Fullerton)
John Thompson (University of Maine)

Contact the organizing committee at percplanning2017@gmail.com.

Important Dates

March 17: Parallel session pre-proposal survey form deadline
March 20: Abstract submission opened
March 20: Juried talk submission opened
April 14: Parallel session full proposal deadline
April 21: Juried talk full proposal deadline (extended)
May 12:  Juried talks selection
May 19: Contributed poster abstract deadline
May 19: First-timer poster abstract deadline
May 26: PERC paper submission will open
June 23: Undergraduate abstract deadline
July 1: PERC paper submission deadline