Modeling Student Understanding of Period, Frequency, and Angular Frequency
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Series/Report no.:2017 Richard J. and Martha D. Denman Undergraduate Research Forum. 22nd
Periodic behavior is a fundamental phenomenon in many physical and biological systems; therefore, it is critical that students understand the concepts and relationships that underlie such behavior. In this study, we used the context of the behavior of a simple harmonic oscillator to investigate students’ ability to determine the period, frequency, and angular frequency from various mathematical and graphical representations by administering a 36-item test to 57 students in an introductory-calculus-based physics course. Using the results of this test, we found that students could be clearly classified into one of three groups, according to the types of questions they mastered. These groups were hierarchically categorized based on the number and kind of relationships mastered by each student. Specifically, we found that only students who could correctly apply the relationship between period and frequency could also correctly apply any relationship involving angular frequency. This hierarchical nature of student performance suggests that instruction should focus on ensuring that students understand the relation between period and frequency before introducing angular frequency. We hope to use these results to update our Essential Skills platform, an online application being used to help students in introductory physics course understand key concepts from their physics courses such as period, frequency, and angular frequency.
Mathematical and Physical Sciences (The Ohio State University Denman Undergraduate Research Forum)
Academic Major: Physics