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Abstract Title: How students apply linear algebra to quantum mechanics
Abstract: I present results from a qualitative study investigating student and expert strategies for applying  mathematics to physics, and particularly linear algebra to quantum mechanics. I discuss results around three facets of this topic. The first of these describe student understanding of the usefulness of linear algebra, and how this can evolve toward greater sophistication. Second, I describe mental models of the wavefunction and evidence that suggests sophisticated models of the wavefunction are underpinned by specific ways of thinking about vectors. Lastly, I consider applications of maths to physics through epistemic games, noting the importance of engaging in both physics-story and maths-story spaces to solve complex problems. I highlight some reasons that students may not play this epistemic game when solving physics problems. All these results have implications for instruction, either in the context of quantum mechanics or more broadly in physics, and I discuss these in each case.
Abstract Type: Contributed Poster Presentation
Session Time: Poster Session I
Poster Number: A40
Contributed Paper Record: Contributed Paper Information
Contributed Paper Download: Download Contributed Paper

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Charlotte Hillebrand-Viljoen
University of Cape Town
and Co-Presenter(s)
Spencer Wheaton, University of Cape Town