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Abstract Title: How students describe infinitesimal sources as infinitesimal spaces in integrals
Abstract: Many students who have completed a full year of calculus continue to demonstrate a weak understanding of the role of the infinitesimal in an integral. This lack of understanding has implications for learning in introductory calculus-based physics, where students must integrate contributions from spatially-distributed sources. Symbolically, a student who constructs such an integral in terms of small chunks of sources, like dm or dq, will need to relate their infinitesimal to a small chunk of space, like dx. In order to better understand how students use the integration infinitesimal, I collected and analyzed written solutions from 39 upper-division physics majors who solved for the electric field of a charged bar. I have identified several categories of ways students handled the infinitesimal when constructing an integral including: small pieces, d as an operator, and incomplete translation.
Abstract Type: Contributed Poster Presentation
Session Time: Poster Session III
Poster Number: C55
Contributed Paper Record: Contributed Paper Information
Contributed Paper Download: Download Contributed Paper

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Gregory Mulder
Oregon State University
442 NW 12th St
Corvallis, OR 97330
Phone: 5419084025
Fax: 5419174755

Contributed Poster

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