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Investigating Student Understanding for a Statistical Analysis of Two Thermally Interacting Solids Documents

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Investigating Student Understanding for a Statistical Analysis of Two Thermally Interacting Solids 

written by Michael E. Loverude

As part of an ongoing research and curriculum development project for upper-division courses in thermal physics, we have developed a sequence of tutorials in which students apply statistical methods to examine the behavior of two interacting Einstein solids. In the sequence, students begin with simple results from probability and develop a means for counting the states in a single Einstein solid. The students then consider the thermal interaction of two solids, and observe that the classical equilibrium state corresponds to the most probable distribution of energy between the two solids. As part of the development of the tutorial sequence, we have developed several assessment questions to probe student understanding of various aspects of this system. In this paper, we describe the strengths and weaknesses of student reasoning, both qualitative and quantitative, to assess the readiness of students for one tutorial in the sequence.

Published August 24, 2010
Last Modified October 29, 2010

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