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Student difficulties with quantum uncertainty in the context of discrete probability distributions
written by Yujia Li, Antje Kohnle, and Gina Passante
Quantum uncertainty is a fundamental concept in quantum mechanics, but challenging for students to master. In this article, we describe student difficulties with visual and conceptual understanding of quantum uncertainty in the context of discrete probability distributions such as those for a spin 1/2 particle. We collected written responses from students at two institutions to a homework activity focusing on uncertainty of spin measurement outcomes, as well as written responses to a test question from one of the institutions. We also conducted interviews with six students to gain further insight into difficulties found. Common incorrect ideas found included a depiction of uncertainty as the error around each of the individual measurement outcomes,  not depicting the uncertainty region from the expectation value outwards, and the idea that quantum uncertainty of an observable can never be zero. These ideas may indicate a confusion between quantum uncertainty and errors due to instrumental imperfections of the measurement apparatus, a lack of conceptual understanding of quantum uncertainty as the standard deviation of the probability distribution with respect to its mean, and an incorrect interpretation of the uncertainty relation between two incompatible observables to deduce that quantum uncertainty can never be zero. The results of this study show the importance of supporting students in visual and conceptual understanding of quantum uncertainty.
Physics Education Research Conference 2021
Part of the PER Conference series
Virtual Conference: August 4-5, 2021
Pages 227-232
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Education - Basic Research
- Alternative Conceptions
Quantum Physics
- Foundations and Measurements
= Probability and Interference
= Uncertainty Principles
- Spin and Finite Dimensional Systems
= Two-Level System
- Upper Undergraduate
- Reference Material
= Research study
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- PER Literature
- Researchers
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Format:
application/pdf
Mirror:
https://doi.org/10.1119/perc.2021…
Access Rights:
Free access
License:
This material is released under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. Further distribution of this work must maintain attribution to the published article's author(s), title, proceedings citation, and DOI.
Rights Holder:
American Association of Physics Teachers
DOI:
10.1119/perc.2021.pr.Li
Keyword:
PERC 2021
Record Creator:
Metadata instance created September 30, 2021 by Lyle Barbato
Record Updated:
October 6, 2021 by Bruce Mason
Last Update
when Cataloged:
October 10, 2021
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Record Link
AIP Format
Y. Li, A. Kohnle, and G. Passante, presented at the Physics Education Research Conference 2021, Virtual Conference, 2021, WWW Document, (https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=15757&DocID=5489).
AJP/PRST-PER
Y. Li, A. Kohnle, and G. Passante, Student difficulties with quantum uncertainty in the context of discrete probability distributions, presented at the Physics Education Research Conference 2021, Virtual Conference, 2021, <https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=15757&DocID=5489>.
APA Format
Li, Y., Kohnle, A., & Passante, G. (2021, August 4-5). Student difficulties with quantum uncertainty in the context of discrete probability distributions. Paper presented at Physics Education Research Conference 2021, Virtual Conference. Retrieved November 26, 2021, from https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=15757&DocID=5489
Chicago Format
Li, Y, A. Kohnle, and G. Passante. "Student difficulties with quantum uncertainty in the context of discrete probability distributions." Paper presented at the Physics Education Research Conference 2021, Virtual Conference, August 4-5, 2021. https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=15757&DocID=5489 (accessed 26 November 2021).
MLA Format
Li, Yujia, Antje Kohnle, and Gina Passante. "Student difficulties with quantum uncertainty in the context of discrete probability distributions." Physics Education Research Conference 2021. Virtual Conference: 2021. 227-232 of PER Conference. 26 Nov. 2021 <https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=15757&DocID=5489>.
BibTeX Export Format
@inproceedings{ Author = "Yujia Li and Antje Kohnle and Gina Passante", Title = {Student difficulties with quantum uncertainty in the context of discrete probability distributions}, BookTitle = {Physics Education Research Conference 2021}, Pages = {227-232}, Address = {Virtual Conference}, Series = {PER Conference}, Month = {August 4-5}, Year = {2021} }
Refer Export Format

%A Yujia Li %A Antje Kohnle %A Gina Passante %T Student difficulties with quantum uncertainty in the context of discrete probability distributions %S PER Conference %D August 4-5 2021 %P 227-232 %C Virtual Conference %U https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=15757&DocID=5489 %O Physics Education Research Conference 2021 %O August 4-5 %O application/pdf

EndNote Export Format

%0 Conference Proceedings %A Li, Yujia %A Kohnle, Antje %A Passante, Gina %D August 4-5 2021 %T Student difficulties with quantum uncertainty in the context of discrete probability distributions %B Physics Education Research Conference 2021 %C Virtual Conference %P 227-232 %S PER Conference %8 August 4-5 %U https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=15757&DocID=5489


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