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Abstract Title: Our best juniors still struggle with Gauss's Law: Characterizing their difficulties
Abstract: We discuss student conceptual difficulties with Gauss's law observed in an upper-division Electricity and Magnetism course. Difficulties at this level have been described in previous work; we present further quantitative and qualitative evidence that upper-division students still struggle with Gauss's law. This evidence is drawn from analysis of upper-division E&M conceptual post-tests, traditional exams, and formal student interviews. Examples of student difficulties include difficulty with the inverse nature of the problem, difficulty articulating complete symmetry arguments, problems visualizing the electric field, and trouble recognizing that in situations without sufficient symmetry it is impossible (rather than "difficult") to calculate the electric field using Gauss's law. One possible explanation for some of these conceptual difficulties is that students at the upper level may struggle to connect mathematical expressions to physical meanings.
Abstract Type: Contributed Poster

Contributed Poster

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Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Rachel E. Pepper
University of Colorado
Box 390
Boulder, CO 80309
Phone: 303-492-6956
and Co-Presenter(s)
Stephanie V. Chasteen
Steven Pollock
Katherine Perkins

All affiliated with the University of Colorado.