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Abstract Title: Teaching Gravitational Potential Energy: Student Interaction with Surface Manipulatives
Abstract: 3D plastic surface models have been used to help students explore mathematical concepts related to functions of two variables. In order to understand how students reason with these models and their associated contour maps, we present analysis of three small groups of students working on an instructional activity designed to help students explore the relationship between gravitational potential energy and force for an Earth-satellite system. Students most often used the surface to examine functional behavior, discuss derivatives, and compare characteristics of the surface. Students often referred to the surface model in their explanations by pointing, gesturing, and tracing (without marking). Students held and drew on the surface less often, and rarely used the contour map. These results indicate that students may need additional support in using the contour map and encouragement to use props to visualize gradient vectors and viewing the surface from different vantage points.
Abstract Type: Contributed Poster Presentation
Session Time: Poster Session I
Poster Number: A63
Contributed Paper Record: Contributed Paper Information
Contributed Paper Download: Download Contributed Paper

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Abigail Kimbrough
Department of Physics, Oregon State University
Co-Author(s)
and Co-Presenter(s)
Paul J. Emigh, Department of Physics, Oregon State University
Jonathan W. Alfson, Department of Physics, Oregon State University
Elizabeth Gire, Department of Physics, Oregon State University

Contributed Poster

Contributed Poster: Download the Contributed Poster