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Abstract Title: Students' explanations of the Dirac delta function during group problem-solving
Abstract: Upper-division physics courses require the use of sophisticated mathematics. In introductory physics, studies have shown that students often lack conceptual understanding of calculus concepts and struggle to implement calculus tools. Research into students' understanding and use of mathematics in upper-level courses is in its early stages. To further this research, we have observed students engaged in group problem-solving during weekly recitation sessions for an upper-division electricity and magnetism course. Early in the course, one task required students to use a Dirac delta function (DDF) to write an expression for the charge density on the surface of a charged hollow cylinder. We report on two group discussions where different students gave a variety of explanations about the purpose of a DDF in this context. By examining these explanations, we can determine the types of understanding students' have about DDFs and which are most productive for their use in physics contexts.
Abstract Type: Contributed Poster Presentation

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Leanne Doughty
Michigan State University
567 Wilson Rd.
East Lansing, MI 48864
and Co-Presenter(s)
Marcos D.Caballero, Michigan State University