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Abstract Title: Experts' understanding of partial derivatives using the Partial Derivative Machine
Abstract: We developed the Partial Derivative Machine (PDM) in response to difficulties we encountered in teaching students mathematical concepts involving partial derivatives and total differentials that are needed in thermodynamics.  The partial derivative machine is a system that has four observable and controllable properties: two forces and two positions. However, only of these four properties only two may be controlled independently.  This ambiguity of independent and dependent variables enables the same sort of mathematical flexibility (and confusion) that is present in thermodynamics.  Because of the versatility of the model, it allowed us to explore the limits of experts' thinking about derivatives, even those unfamiliar with ideas in thermodynamics.  We will present preliminary results from interviews with experts from several different disciplines, as we explore how they understand partial derivatives when given an experimental prompt.
Abstract Type: Contributed Poster Presentation

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: David Roundy
Oregon State University
301 Weniger Hall, Department of Physics
Oregon State University
Corvallis, OR 97331
Phone: 5416020836
Co-Author(s)
and Co-Presenter(s)
Eric Weber, Tevian Dray, Dept. of Mathematics, Oregon State University

Grant Scherer, Corinne Manogue, Dept. of Physics, Oregon State University

Contributed Paper

Contributed Paper: Download the Contributed Paper