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Special Colloquium – Friday, March 21 – Warren Christensen

March 19th, 2014

Maine Center for Research in STEM Education
Colloquia & Seminar Series


Warren Christensen

North Dakota State University
Assistant Professor of Physics
Director of Growing Up STEM REU

Student reasoning about matrix multiplication:
a window for investigating math/physics frame shifts

 In principle, a student who has completed both Linear Algebra and Quantum Mechanics should have a wealth of conceptual and procedural knowledge that has been attained from classes in mathematics and physics.  However in practice, it seems that many students come into our physics courses with a lack of skills that we know were taught in math courses. Do students fail to retain this information or do students possess this information but only within specific contexts? This investigation casts light on students’ thinking about matrix multiplication and how their thinking appears to be influenced by their framing of the problem as either a mathematics or physics question. We use the framework of Framing and Resources to describe a single student’s thinking during an interview. Using an interview protocol written by mathematicians from a study in Mathematics Education, we explicitly probed mathematical thinking, and investigated if (and when) students attempted to relate mathematical problems to physics. Using lexicon analysis, we find students seem to shift from a “mathematical frame” to a “physics frame” and back again, but struggle to successfully transfer concepts between those frames. I will highlight the markers for these frame shifts and explore the potential instructional consequences of this work.


 Friday,  March 21, 2014
3:00 – 4:00 pm
Arthur St. John Hill Auditorium, 165 Barrows Hall

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