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Student Difficulties with the Dirac Delta Function
written by Bethany R. Wilcox and Steven J. Pollock
The Dirac delta function is a standard mathematical tool used in multiple topical areas in the undergraduate physics curriculum. While Dirac delta functions are usually introduced in order to simplify a problem mathematically, students often struggle to manipulate and interpret them. To better understand student difficulties with the delta function at the upper-division level, we examined responses to traditional exam questions and conducted think-aloud interviews. Our analysis was guided by an analytical framework that focuses on how students activate, construct, execute, and reflect on the Dirac delta function in physics. Here, we focus on student difficulties using the delta function to express charge distributions in the context of junior-level electrostatics. Challenges included: invoking the delta function spontaneously, constructing two- and three-dimensional delta functions, integrating novel delta function expressions, and recognizing that the delta function can have units.
Physics Education Research Conference 2014
Part of the PER Conference series
Minneapolis, MN: July 30-31, 2014
Pages 271-274
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Education Foundations
- Problem Solving
= Representational Use
Electricity & Magnetism
- Electrostatics
= Charge
= Multipoles
- Upper Undergraduate
- Reference Material
= Research study
Intended Users Formats Ratings
- Researchers
- application/pdf
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Mirror:
https://doi.org/10.1119/perc.2014…
Access Rights:
Free access
License:
This material is released under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 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.2014.pr.064
NSF Numbers:
1023028
1144083
PACS:
01.40.Fk
Keywords:
ACER, PERC 2014, electrostatics, mathematics, upper-division
Record Creator:
Metadata instance created April 28, 2015 by Lyle Barbato
Record Updated:
May 1, 2015 by Bruce Mason
Last Update
when Cataloged:
April 28, 2015
Other Collections:

ComPADRE is beta testing Citation Styles!

Record Link
AIP Format
B. Wilcox and S. Pollock, presented at the Physics Education Research Conference 2014, Minneapolis, MN, 2014, WWW Document, (https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=13504&DocID=4099).
AJP/PRST-PER
B. Wilcox and S. Pollock, Student Difficulties with the Dirac Delta Function, presented at the Physics Education Research Conference 2014, Minneapolis, MN, 2014, <https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=13504&DocID=4099>.
APA Format
Wilcox, B., & Pollock, S. (2014, July 30-31). Student Difficulties with the Dirac Delta Function. Paper presented at Physics Education Research Conference 2014, Minneapolis, MN. Retrieved October 26, 2021, from https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=13504&DocID=4099
Chicago Format
Wilcox, Bethany, and Steven Pollock. "Student Difficulties with the Dirac Delta Function." Paper presented at the Physics Education Research Conference 2014, Minneapolis, MN, July 30-31, 2014. https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=13504&DocID=4099 (accessed 26 October 2021).
MLA Format
Wilcox, Bethany, and Steven Pollock. "Student Difficulties with the Dirac Delta Function." Physics Education Research Conference 2014. Minneapolis, MN: 2014. 271-274 of PER Conference. 26 Oct. 2021 <https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=13504&DocID=4099>.
BibTeX Export Format
@inproceedings{ Author = "Bethany Wilcox and Steven Pollock", Title = {Student Difficulties with the Dirac Delta Function}, BookTitle = {Physics Education Research Conference 2014}, Pages = {271-274}, Address = {Minneapolis, MN}, Series = {PER Conference}, Month = {July 30-31}, Year = {2014} }
Refer Export Format

%A Bethany Wilcox %A Steven Pollock %T Student Difficulties with the Dirac Delta Function %S PER Conference %D July 30-31 2014 %P 271-274 %C Minneapolis, MN %U https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=13504&DocID=4099 %O Physics Education Research Conference 2014 %O July 30-31 %O application/pdf

EndNote Export Format

%0 Conference Proceedings %A Wilcox, Bethany %A Pollock, Steven %D July 30-31 2014 %T Student Difficulties with the Dirac Delta Function %B Physics Education Research Conference 2014 %C Minneapolis, MN %P 271-274 %S PER Conference %8 July 30-31 %U https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=13504&DocID=4099


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