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PERC 2019 Abstract Detail Page

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Abstract Title: Student Meanings for Eigenequations in Mathematics and in Quantum Mechanics
Abstract: Students encounter advanced mathematical concepts in both mathematics classes and physics classes.  What meanings do they develop about the concepts across the various contexts? Our research project investigates students' meanings for eigentheory in quantum mechanics and how their language for eigentheory compares and contrasts across mathematics and quantum physics contexts. We present results regarding students' interpretations of a canonical mathematical 2x2 eigenequation, a spin­-½ operator eigenequation, and a spin-½ operator equation in which the operation "flips" the spin state. The data consist of video, transcript, and written work from individual, semi­structured interviews with 9 students from a quantum mechanics course. Students were asked to explain what the first two equations meant to them and then to compare and contrast how they conceptualize eigentheory in the two contexts. They were then asked to discuss the third equation. Using discourse analysis and symbolic form analysis, results characterize students' nuanced imagery for the various equations and highlight instances of both synergistic and potentially incompatible interpretations.
Abstract Type: Symposium Talk
Parallel Session: Representing student reasoning about math in physics
Session Time: Parallel Sessions Cluster I
Room: Cascade D

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Megan Wawro
Virginia Tech University
Co-Author(s)
and Co-Presenter(s)
John Thompson and Kevin Watson