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written by Bethany R. Wilcox, Marcos D. Caballero, Rachel E. Pepper, and Steven J. Pollock
Utilizing the integral expression of Coulomb's Law to determine the electric potential from a continuous charge distribution is a canonical exercise in Electricity and Magnetism (E&M). In this study, we use both think-aloud interviews and responses to traditional exam questions to investigate student difficulties with this topic at the upper-division level. Leveraging a theoretical framework for the use of mathematics in physics, we discuss how students activate, construct, execute and reflect on the integral form of Coulomb's Law when solving problems with continuous charge distributions. We present evidence that junior-level E&M students have difficulty mapping physical systems onto the mathematical expression for the Coulomb potential. Common challenges include difficulty expressing the difference vector in appropriate coordinates as well as determining expressions for the differential charge element and limits of integration for a specific charge distribution. We discuss possible implications of these findings for future research directions and instructional strategies.
Physics Education Research Conference 2012
Part of the PER Conference series
Philadelphia, PA: August 1-2, 2012
Volume 1513, Pages 418-421
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Education - Basic Research
- Alternative Conceptions
- Research Design & Methodology
Electricity & Magnetism
- Electrostatics
= Coulomb's Law
- Upper Undergraduate
- Reference Material
= Research study
PER-Central Type Intended Users Ratings
- PER Literature
- Researchers
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Formats:
application/pdf
non-digital
Mirror:
http://dx.doi.org/10.1063/1.4789741
Access Rights:
Free access and
Available for purchase
A preprint of the work is available. A hard copy of the PERC 2012 proceedings is available for purchase from the AIP.
Restriction:
© 2012 American Institute of Physics
DOI:
10.1063/1.4789741
NSF Number:
1023028
PACSs:
01.40.Fk
01.30.lb
Keywords:
ACER Framework, PERC 2012, electric potential, electricity and magnetism, student difficulties with mathematics
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created July 1, 2013 by Zachary Davis
Record Updated:
December 17, 2013 by Lyle Barbato
Last Update
when Cataloged:
January 24, 2013
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Record Link
AIP Format
B. Wilcox, M. Caballero, R. Pepper, and S. Pollock, presented at the Physics Education Research Conference 2012, Philadelphia, PA, 2012, WWW Document, (http://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=12866&DocID=3398).
AJP/PRST-PER
B. Wilcox, M. Caballero, R. Pepper, and S. Pollock, Upper-division student understanding of Coulomb's law: Difficulties with continuous charge distributions, presented at the Physics Education Research Conference 2012, Philadelphia, PA, 2012, <http://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=12866&DocID=3398>.
APA Format
Wilcox, B., Caballero, M., Pepper, R., & Pollock, S. (2012, August 1-2). Upper-division student understanding of Coulomb's law: Difficulties with continuous charge distributions. Paper presented at Physics Education Research Conference 2012, Philadelphia, PA. Retrieved October 1, 2014, from http://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=12866&DocID=3398
Chicago Format
Wilcox, B, M. Caballero, R. Pepper, and S. Pollock. "Upper-division student understanding of Coulomb's law: Difficulties with continuous charge distributions." Paper presented at the Physics Education Research Conference 2012, Philadelphia, PA, August 1-2, 2012. http://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=12866&DocID=3398 (accessed 1 October 2014).
MLA Format
Wilcox, Bethany, Marcos Caballero, Rachel Pepper, and Steven Pollock. "Upper-division student understanding of Coulomb's law: Difficulties with continuous charge distributions." Physics Education Research Conference 2012. Philadelphia, PA: 2012. 418-421 Vol. 1513 of PER Conference. 1 Oct. 2014 <http://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=12866&DocID=3398>.
BibTeX Export Format
@inproceedings{ Author = "Bethany Wilcox and Marcos Caballero and Rachel Pepper and Steven Pollock", Title = {Upper-division student understanding of Coulomb's law: Difficulties with continuous charge distributions}, BookTitle = {Physics Education Research Conference 2012}, Pages = {418-421}, Address = {Philadelphia, PA}, Series = {PER Conference}, Volume = {1513}, Month = {August 1-2}, Year = {2012} }
Refer Export Format

%A Bethany Wilcox
%A Marcos Caballero
%A Rachel Pepper
%A Steven Pollock
%T Upper-division student understanding of Coulomb's law: Difficulties with continuous charge distributions
%S PER Conference
%V 1513
%D August 1-2 2012
%P 418-421
%C Philadelphia, PA
%U http://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=12866&DocID=3398
%O Physics Education Research Conference 2012
%O August 1-2
%O application/pdf

EndNote Export Format

%0 Conference Proceedings
%A Wilcox, Bethany
%A Caballero, Marcos
%A Pepper, Rachel
%A Pollock, Steven
%D August 1-2 2012
%T Upper-division student understanding of Coulomb's law: Difficulties with continuous charge distributions
%B Physics Education Research Conference 2012
%C Philadelphia, PA
%V 1513
%P 418-421
%S PER Conference
%8 August 1-2
%U http://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=12866&DocID=3398


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Upper-division student understanding of Coulomb's law: Difficulties with continuous charge distributions:


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