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Abstract Title: Investigating students' difficulties with equations involving circuit elements
Abstract: We discuss an investigation exploring students' difficulties with equations relating to circuit elements.  We find that introductory physics students have great difficulty understanding, e.g., how the resistance of an Ohmic resistor can be written in terms of the potential difference across it and the current through it, but it does not change when the potential difference across the resistor is varied. Many students believed that there should be only one equation for a physical quantity that should provide the one and only "solution" for that physical quantity. They were confused when presented with two separate equations. Similar confusions arose in problems relating to capacitors and inductors.  We discuss these difficulties in the context of introductory physics students' performance on questions about circuit elements both in the free-response and multiple-choice formats and compare their performance to that of the graduate students.This work was supported by NSF.
Abstract Type: Contributed Poster

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Jing Li
University of Pittsburgh
and Co-Presenter(s)
Chandralekha Singh, University of Pittsburgh