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Abstract Title: Student determination of differential area elements in upper-division physics
Abstract: Given the significance of differential area vectors in multivariable coordinate systems to the learning of physics in electricity and magnetism (E&M), students in junior-level E&M were interviewed about a number of typical E&M problems involving integration over areas. In one task, students were given the magnitude of a magnetic field from a long current-carrying wire and asked to solve for the magnetic flux through a square loop. A second task asked students to set up an integral to solve for the electric field as a function of distance from a charged circular sheet. During the tasks, students were asked to elaborate on their choices of differential area vectors. Several responses were common across interviews, as were a number of general difficulties that hampered students' choice of differential area. Additionally, students providing correct area elements for non-Cartesian problems were able to articulate how differential areas are built from their corresponding lengths.
Abstract Type: Contributed Poster Presentation

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Benjamin Schermerhorn
University of Maine
Department of Physics and Astronomy
5709 Bennett Hall
Orono, ME 04469
Co-Author(s)
and Co-Presenter(s)
John Thompson, University of Maine

Contributed Poster

Contributed Poster: Download the Contributed Poster