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Abstract Title: Student understanding of unit vectors and coordinate systems beyond cartesian coordinates in upper division physics courses
Abstract: In upper division physics courses students are required to work with various coordinate systems. This skill becomes particularly important when learning Electricity and Magnetism, where the most appropriate coordinate system will often depend on the geometry and symmetry of a problem. This study aims to understand how students think about coordinate systems and unit vectors in non-Cartesian coordinate systems.  In this paper we look at student understanding of unit vectors in plane polar coordinates in terms of a resources model [Hammer 2000]. Data were collected in the form of written responses and interviews in upper division physics courses at two universities. After deeper analysis we found that students are activating several resources and using them in ways that can be productive and unproductive.

Supported in part by NSF grant PHY 1406035
Abstract Type: Contributed Poster Presentation

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Marlene Vega
7055 paddlewheel drive
eastvale, CA 91752
Phone: 7149328463
and Co-Presenter(s)
Michael Loverude, Warren Christensen, Gina Passante, Brian Farlow