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written by Mary Bridget Kustusch
Students in introductory physics struggle with vector algebra and cross product direction (CPD). While research into student understanding of vector algebra notes representation-dependence can impact student performance, with few exceptions these findings have not been applied to CPD questions or the use of right-hand rules (RHRs). A synthesis of the relevant literature yields four problem features likely to impact CPD understanding: the reasoning type required, the vectors' orientations, the need for parallel transport, and the physics context and features (or lack thereof). These categories form the basis of this study's exploration of the context- and representation-dependence of student performance on CPD questions.

The study analyzed 27 think-aloud interviews of second semester introductory physics students answering 80-100 CPD questions in different contexts and with varying problem features. Features were analyzed for correctness and responses were coded for the methods used and errors made.

The results reveal a wide variety of methods and RHRs, many types of errors, and significant context- and representation-dependence for problem features. Problems that required reasoning backward from a resultant presented the biggest challenge for students. Other performance issues stemmed from: 1) physical discomfort in the use of a RHR, 2) the plane of the given vectors, 3) the angle between the vectors, and, 4) misinterpretations of the into- and out-of- page symbols. The parallel transport issue did not appear to be nearly as prevalent for CPD as it is for vector addition and subtraction.

This study demonstrated that student difficulty with CPD is not as simple as misapplied RHRs. Student behavior is dependent on question context and its representation of various problem features. This study also confirmed earlier findings regarding difficulties with magnetic fields and forces and provided evidence of difficulties suspected but not yet explored.
University: North Carolina State University
Academic Department:  Physics
Pages 236
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Education Foundations
- Alternative Conceptions
- Behavior
- Problem Solving
= Heuristics
= Representational Use
- Student Characteristics
= Skills
Electricity & Magnetism
- Magnetic Fields and Forces
= Force on Moving Charges
= Force on Wires
= Magnetic Fields
= Torques on Coils
Mathematical Tools
- Vector Algebra
- Lower Undergraduate
- Reference Material
= Thesis/Dissertation
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- Professional/Practitioners
- Educators
- application/pdf
- non-digital
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© 2011 Mary Bridget Kustusch
Type:
Ph.D.
Record Creator:
Metadata instance created May 5, 2011 by Mary Bridget Kustusch
Record Updated:
July 2, 2012 by Lyle Barbato
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when Cataloged:
March 23, 2011
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AIP Format
M. Kustusch, Ph.D., North Carolina State University, 2011, WWW Document, (http://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=11185&DocID=2274).
AJP/PRST-PER
M. Kustusch, Student Understanding of Cross Product Direction and Use of Right-Hand Rules: An Exploration of Representation and Context-Dependence, Ph.D., North Carolina State University, 2011, <http://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=11185&DocID=2274>.
APA Format
Kustusch, M. (2011, March 23). Student Understanding of Cross Product Direction and Use of Right-Hand Rules: An Exploration of Representation and Context-Dependence (Ph.D., North Carolina State University, 2011). Retrieved October 23, 2014, from http://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=11185&DocID=2274
Chicago Format
Kustusch, Mary Bridget. "Student Understanding of Cross Product Direction and Use of Right-Hand Rules: An Exploration of Representation and Context-Dependence." Ph.D., North Carolina State University, 2011. http://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=11185&DocID=2274 (accessed 23 October 2014).
MLA Format
Kustusch, Mary Bridget. "Student Understanding of Cross Product Direction and Use of Right-Hand Rules: An Exploration of Representation and Context-Dependence." Ph.D.. 23 Mar. 2011. North Carolina State University, 2011. 23 Oct. 2014 <http://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=11185&DocID=2274>.
BibTeX Export Format
@phdthesis{ Author = "Mary Bridget Kustusch", Title = {Student Understanding of Cross Product Direction and Use of Right-Hand Rules: An Exploration of Representation and Context-Dependence}, School = {North Carolina State University}, Type = {Ph.D.}, Month = {March}, Year = {2011} }
Refer Export Format

%A Mary Bridget Kustusch
%T Student Understanding of Cross Product Direction and Use of Right-Hand Rules: An Exploration of Representation and Context-Dependence
%R Ph.D.
%D March 23, 2011
%P 236
%I North Carolina State University
%U http://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=11185&DocID=2274
%O Physics
%O application/pdf
%O Ph.D.

EndNote Export Format

%0 Thesis
%A Kustusch, Mary Bridget
%D March 23, 2011
%T Student Understanding of Cross Product Direction and Use of Right-Hand Rules: An Exploration of Representation and Context-Dependence
%B Physics
%I North Carolina State University
%P 236
%8 March 23, 2011
%9 Ph.D.
%U http://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=11185&DocID=2274


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