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Abstract Title: Student Sense Making about Equipotential Graphs
Abstract: The electric potential is often represented graphically using equipotential contours.  Representing a multivariable function in this way can be challenging to interpret. A strategy for making sense of a contour graph is to try to make connections to other physical and mathematical ideas.  We describe how upper-level physics students make sense of two-dimensional contour graphs of electric potential on a matched pair of open-ended questions given at the beginning and end of a junior-level electrostatics course.  Students predominantly discussed the sign, shape, and location of the charged objects that give rise to the potential.  We also find that while some students discuss how the potential changes in space, they rarely connect the potential explicitly to an electric field. These results suggest students have intuitions about the relationship between potential and sources that might be useful for studying Poisson's equation but may need support in leveraging gradient information on contour maps.
Abstract Type: Contributed Poster Presentation
Session Time: Poster Session III
Poster Number: C21
Contributed Paper Record: Contributed Paper Information
Contributed Paper Download: Download Contributed Paper

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Paul J. Emigh
Oregon State University
2410 NW Rolling Green Dr
Apt. 41
Corvallis, OR 97330
Phone: 4806123411
and Co-Presenter(s)
Jonathan Alfson (Oregon State University)
Elizabeth Gire (Oregon State University)

Contributed Poster

Contributed Poster: Download the Contributed Poster