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PERC 2011 Abstract Detail Page

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Abstract Title: Student Difficulty with non-Cartesian Unit Vectors in Upper Level E&M
Abstract: An upper level E&M course (i.e. based on Griffiths) involves the extensive integration of vector calculus concepts and notation with abstract physics concepts like field and potential.  We hope that students take what they have learned in their math classes and apply it to help represent and make sense of the physics.  To assess how well students are able to do this integration and application I have developed a simple concept test on position and unit vectors in Spherical coordinates. In this poster I describe this concept test and present results that show students at all levels (pre-E&M course, post-E&M course, 1st year graduate students) and in different disciplines (physics, electrical engineering) struggle with using non-Cartesian unit vectors.  A curriculum is being developed to address these difficulties.  Some preliminary results from this curriculum are shown.
Abstract Type: Contributed Poster

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Brant Hinrichs
Drury University