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Abstract Title: A study on the effect of physical context in students’ understanding of vectors
Abstract: Vectors represent an important mathematical description of physical quantities that are critical for students' understanding of fundamental concepts in introductory physics courses. In this article we compare between American students' understanding of vector concepts in isomorphic problems with no physical context and with mechanics context. Students enrolled in calculus-based introductory physics courses were recruited and randomly assigned into two groups: one taking a conceptual multiple-choice test of vectors with no physical context and another taking an isomorphic test with mechanics context. We analyzed students' performance in the test and classified the test items in three different groups: (1) items in which the selection of the correct answer is significant better on the mechanics context test version, (2) items in which the selection of the correct answer is significantly better in the no-context version, and (3) items in which the selection of the correct answer is similar in both test versions. This study provides guidelines to the design of new instructional material that pursues increasing students' understanding of vector concepts in introductory physics courses.
Abstract Type: Contributed Poster Presentation
Session Time: Poster Session I
Poster Number: A94

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Diego Valente
University of Connecticut
2152 Hillside Road, U-3046
University of Connecticut - Dept. of Physics
Storrs, CT 06269-3046
Phone: 8604862903
Co-Author(s)
and Co-Presenter(s)
Xian Wu - University of Connecticut
Pablo Barniol - Tecnologico de Monterrey, Mexico