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Abstract Title: An Expert Path Through a Thermo Maze
Abstract: There have been several studies in recent years that have demonstrated that upper-division students struggle with partial derivatives and the complicated chain rules ubiquitous in thermodynamics. We asked several experts (primarily faculty who teach thermodynamics) to solve a challenging and novel thermodynamics problem to understand how they navigate through this maze. What we found was a tremendous variety in solution strategies and sense-making tools, both within and between individuals. This case study focuses on one particular expert: his solution path and use of sense-making tools. This expert was also asked to work the same problem using differentials (an approach taught in the Paradigms in Physics: Energy and Entropy course). This presentation will also discuss his reflections on how a differential method compared to his own approach and on the utility of using differentials in teaching undergraduates.
Abstract Type: Symposium Poster
Targeted Session: Research on the learning and teaching of Thermodynamics: Insight from many perspectives

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Mary Bridget Kustusch
Oregon State University
Physics Department
301 Weniger Hall
Corvallis, OR 97331-6507
Phone: 773-517-5534
Co-Author(s)
and Co-Presenter(s)
Corinne Manogue, Oregon State University
David Roundy, Oregon State University
Tevian Dray, Oregon State University

Contributed Poster

Contributed Poster: Download the Contributed Poster