Classical Mechanics/ Math Methods 1

Research Associated with the Course

The course was under study by Danny Caballero, a Science Teaching Fellow at CU Boulder, and now Assistant Professor at Michigan State University. Previously, Rachel Pepper, now an Assistant Professor at the University of Puget Sound, began developing materials and instituting research efforts into student challenges. Research efforts are funded by the University of Colorado's Science Education Initiative.

Some research efforts in middle-division Classical Mechanics continue through a collaboration between physics education groups at Colorado and Michigan State. These efforts are led by Leanne Doughty, a post-doc a Michigan State.

Present Research Projects

Student difficulties with course material - We are investigating which topics, concepts, and methods are challenging for students to learn and why. The first of these topics we have investigated is students' use of mathematics in this course. In particular, how and when students use Taylor approximations. We have written a short paper describing a framework developed to scaffold students' difficulties. This work resulted in a longer paper that describes the framework and it's use in multiple contexts. More recently, we have begun looking at theoretical constructs that help explain how students use math in these courses.

Assessment of transformed and traditional Classical Mechanics courses - We are developing an assessment for use in middle-division Classical Mechanics. We have papers detailing the design and use of the instrument, as well as a more detailed article on the grading of the instrument. A future publication will provide complete details on the whole instrument.

Teaching students to use numerical computation - We have begun to embed numerical computation into this course. This is active topic of research for us. We have written a paper describing our experiences teaching students with this embedded pedagogy. More information is available online.