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Understanding combinatorics challenges in an upper-division thermodynamics course
written by Kristin A. Oliver and Bethany R. Wilcox
Upper division thermodynamics courses require students to develop proficiency with several combinatorial topics. While little research has been done to establish student comfort and proficiency with these topics within physics, anecdotally, instructors of these courses report that students experience unaddressed challenges when working with combinatorics. Through examining student solutions to questions on homework assignments and examinations, we identified some common student difficulties with combinatorics in the context of an upper-division thermodynamics and statistical mechanics course at a large research university. Some of these common challenges include identifying how to work with distinguishability and order, checking formulas against a specific case, and combining the multiplicities of multiple systems.
Physics Education Research Conference 2021
Part of the PER Conference series
Virtual Conference: August 4-5, 2021
Pages 315-320
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Education - Basic Research
- Alternative Conceptions
Mathematical Tools
- Probability
- Statistics
Thermo & Stat Mech
- Ensembles
= Microstate
- Probability
= Binomial Distribution
- Upper Undergraduate
- Reference Material
= Research study
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Format:
application/pdf
Mirror:
https://doi.org/10.1119/perc.2021…
Access Rights:
Free access
License:
This material is released under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 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.2021.pr.Oliver
Keyword:
PERC 2021
Record Creator:
Metadata instance created October 1, 2021 by Lyle Barbato
Record Updated:
October 6, 2021 by Bruce Mason
Last Update
when Cataloged:
October 10, 2021
ComPADRE is beta testing Citation Styles!

Record Link
AIP Format
K. Oliver and B. Wilcox, , presented at the Physics Education Research Conference 2021, Virtual Conference, 2021, WWW Document, (https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=15770&DocID=5502).
AJP/PRST-PER
K. Oliver and B. Wilcox, Understanding combinatorics challenges in an upper-division thermodynamics course, presented at the Physics Education Research Conference 2021, Virtual Conference, 2021, <https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=15770&DocID=5502>.
APA Format
Oliver, K., & Wilcox, B. (2021, August 4-5). Understanding combinatorics challenges in an upper-division thermodynamics course. Paper presented at Physics Education Research Conference 2021, Virtual Conference. Retrieved December 5, 2022, from https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=15770&DocID=5502
Chicago Format
Oliver, Kristin A., and Bethany Wilcox. "Understanding combinatorics challenges in an upper-division thermodynamics course." Paper presented at the Physics Education Research Conference 2021, Virtual Conference, August 4-5, 2021. https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=15770&DocID=5502 (accessed 5 December 2022).
MLA Format
Oliver, Kristin A., and Bethany Wilcox. "Understanding combinatorics challenges in an upper-division thermodynamics course." Physics Education Research Conference 2021. Virtual Conference: 2021. 315-320 of PER Conference. 5 Dec. 2022 <https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=15770&DocID=5502>.
BibTeX Export Format
@inproceedings{ Author = "Kristin A. Oliver and Bethany Wilcox", Title = {Understanding combinatorics challenges in an upper-division thermodynamics course}, BookTitle = {Physics Education Research Conference 2021}, Pages = {315-320}, Address = {Virtual Conference}, Series = {PER Conference}, Month = {August 4-5}, Year = {2021} }
Refer Export Format

%A Kristin A. Oliver %A Bethany Wilcox %T Understanding combinatorics challenges in an upper-division thermodynamics course %S PER Conference %D August 4-5 2021 %P 315-320 %C Virtual Conference %U https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=15770&DocID=5502 %O Physics Education Research Conference 2021 %O August 4-5 %O application/pdf

EndNote Export Format

%0 Conference Proceedings %A Oliver, Kristin A. %A Wilcox, Bethany %D August 4-5 2021 %T Understanding combinatorics challenges in an upper-division thermodynamics course %B Physics Education Research Conference 2021 %C Virtual Conference %P 315-320 %S PER Conference %8 August 4-5 %U https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=15770&DocID=5502


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