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Abstract Title: Student Reasoning about Multivariable Covariation in Thermodynamics
Abstract: Understanding how the quantities in multivariable relationships covary is crucial in studying thermodynamics. To study how students reason about multivariable covariation, we asked junior-level physics majors to consider an ideal gas and the corresponding contour graph of temperature vs. volume and pressure. We asked these students to identify how the temperature changes (a) when the volume changes and (b) when the pressure changes, without specifying how the other variable changes. We found that students used three kinds of reasoning: (1) referencing the features of the provided graph, (2) using physical knowledge about the gas, and (3) analyzing the system abstractly. Almost all students, regardless of the type of reasoning they used, answered that the temperature could only change in one way. These results suggest that instruction focusing on the different ways thermodynamic variables can change together might help students develop more sophisticated covariational reasoning skills.
Abstract Type: Contributed Poster Presentation
Session Time: Poster Session III
Poster Number: C50
Contributed Paper Record: Contributed Paper Information
Contributed Paper Download: Download Contributed Paper

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Paul J Emigh
Oregon State University
3167 SE Midvale Dr
Corvallis, OR 97333
Phone: 4806123411
and Co-Presenter(s)
Reese R. Siegel (Oregon State University)
Jonathan W. Alfson (Oregon State University)
Elizabeth Gire (Oregon State University)

Contributed Poster

Contributed Poster: Download the Contributed Poster