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Abstract Title: Investigating student interpretations of the differences between classical and quantum computers
Abstract Type: Symposium Poster
Abstract: Significant attention in the PER community has been paid to student cognition and reasoning processes in undergraduate quantum mechanics. Until recently, however, these same topics have remained largely unexplored in the context of emerging interdisciplinary quantum information science (QIS) courses. We conducted exploratory think-aloud interviews with 22 students in an upper-division quantum computing course at a large R1 university crosslisted in physics and computer science, as well as 5 graduate students in a similar graduate-level QIS course offered in physics. We classify and analyze students' responses to a pair of questions regarding the fundamental differences between classical and quantum computers. We specifically note two key themes of importance to educators: (1) when reasoning about computational power, students often struggled to distinguish between the relative effects of exponential and linear scaling, resulting in students frequently focusing on distinctions that are arguably better understood as analog-digital than classical-quantum, and (2) introducing the thought experiment of analog classical computers was a powerful tool for helping students develop a more expertlike perspective on the differences between classical and quantum computers.
Session Time: Parallel Sessions Cluster III
Room: Gerald R. Ford Ballroom
Parallel Session: Learning Quantum: Contributed Posters Symposium

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Josephine C. Meyer
University of Colorado Boulder
Boulder, CO 80305
Phone: +1 541-844-4344
and Co-Presenter(s)
Gina Passante, California State University Fullerton
Steven J. Pollock, University of Colorado Boulder
Bethany R. Wilcox, University of Colorado Boulder