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Abstract Title: Student Difficulties with Complex Numbers
Abstract: Complex numbers and functions are used in multiple subdisciplines in the undergraduate physics curriculum. We are beginning to explore middle-division student difficulties with complex numbers, complex functions, and their applications within physics. Here we use pretests, quizzes, and exams which were administered throughout the junior year to identify student difficulties. These difficulties are classified into three categories: performing calculations involving complex numbers, switching between forms of complex numbers, and appropriately selecting forms of complex numbers to simplify calculations. Our exploration suggests that students in middle-division physics courses have varying levels of fluency with complex number manipulations and that these difficulties tend to persist over time.
Abstract Type: Contributed Poster Presentation

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Emily M. Smith
Department of Physics, Oregon State University
301 Weniger Hall
Corvallis, OR 97331
and Co-Presenter(s)
Justyna P. Zwolak, STEM Transformation Institute, Florida International University, Miami, FL 33199

Corinne A. Manogue, Department of Physics, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331