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Abstract Title: Assessing the Concepts of Integration and Differentiation in Multivariable Calculus
Abstract: Previous work on student understanding of graphical interpretation of slope, derivative, and area under curves in various physics contexts has shown substantial difficulties, most notably in kinematics. Concurrently, several reports point toward students lack of algebraic acumen as a likely cause for their low achievement in a physics classroom. In order to see if some of the documented issues arise from being asked mathematical questions about single- and multivariable calculus concepts in a physics course, we administered a brief survey on these basic concepts to students near the end of multivariable calculus. Some of the questions are based on our earlier work in thermal physics that are essentially stripped of their physics content. Initial findings show that even after three semesters of university-level calculus, students struggle with basic concepts of integration and differentiation. Individual survey items and summative scores will be presented.

Supported in part by NSF Grants PHY-0406764, REC-0633951, and the Maine Academic Prominence Initiative.
Abstract Type: Contributed Poster

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Warren M. Christensen
University of Maine, Center for Science and Mathematics Education Research
Dept. of Physics and Astronomy, 5709 Bennett Hall
Orono, ME 04469-5709
Phone: 207-581-1237
and Co-Presenter(s)
John R. Thompson
University of Maine
john.thompson -at- umit.maine.edu