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Combining mathematics and physics beyond the introductory level: the case of partial differential equations

Using mathematics in physics requires more than straightforward application of mathematical procedures. Despite intensive research, it is not yet understood how students can combine physical meaning with mathematical structure, especially in upper tertiary level. This project brings together expertise from physics and mathematics education research to investigate how students combine mathematical and physical concepts while studying partial differential equations (PDEs) in physics, a topic that we specifically selected because it exemplifies best how physical phenomena are described by advanced mathematics. We will use and extend the concept of genetic decomposition from APOS theory to study student understanding of PDEs in physics. Our research methods include paper-and-pencil-tests, task-based think-aloud interviews, teaching/learning interviews and design research. The ultimate goal is to better understand obstacles and possible scaffolds that allow us to design a learning environment that supports bridging mathematics and physics in the particular case of PDEs.
Date:1 Oct 2020 →  Today
Keywords:physics education research, mathematics education research, differential equations, interplay physics-mathematics
Disciplines:Didactics of school subjects, Higher education