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Abstract Title: Student Thinking About the Divergence and Curl in Mathematics and Physics Contexts
Abstract: Undergraduate physics students are known to have difficulties with understanding mathematical tools, and with applying their knowledge of mathematics to physical contexts.  Using survey statements based on open-ended questions and student interviews, we investigated the prevalence of correct and incorrect conceptions regarding the divergence and curl of vector fields among both mathematics and physics students.  We find significant differences in the survey responses given by physics majors and mathematics majors enrolled in the same vector calculus course.  We also compare pre- and post-instruction responses from students taking intermediate-level electromagnetism courses at the University of St Andrews and KU Leuven.  Although their understanding of the divergence and curl improved, relatively few electromagnetism students were able to provide completely correct survey responses at mid-semester.
Abstract Type: Contributed Poster Presentation

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Charles Baily
University of St Andrews
School of Physics and Astronomy
St Andrews, Scotland, Non U.S. KY16 9SS
and Co-Presenter(s)
Laurens Bollen, KU Leuven, Belgium
Andrew Pattie, University of St Andrews, Scotland
Paul van Kampen, Dublin City University, Ireland
Mieke De Cock, KU Leuven, Belgium