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Abstract Title: Examining student ability to interpret and use potential energy diagrams
Abstract: The Physics Education Group at the University of Washington is examining the extent to which students are able to interpret graphs of potential energy vs. position and use these graphs to infer kinematic and dynamic quantities about a system. The findings reveal difficulties that many students have in relating total energy, potential energy and kinetic energy. Some problems seem to be graphical in nature (e.g., interpreting graphs of potential energy vs. position as if they were of position vs. time). Others arise in specific cases, such as when the potential energy is negative. The results have implications beyond the introductory level since graphs of potential energy are used in advanced courses on classical and quantum mechanics.
Abstract Type: Contributed Poster

Contributed Poster

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Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Brian M. Stephanik
University of Washington
Campus Box 351560
Seattle, WA 98195-1560
Phone: 206 685 2046
Co-Author(s)
and Co-Presenter(s)
Peter S. Shaffer, Department of Physics, University of Washington
Lillian C. McDermott, Department of Physics, University of Washington