Computational Models and Conceptual Understanding in Introductory Physics

Ruth Chabay
Event Date and Time: 
Fri, 2015-12-04 15:00 - 16:00
Irving K Barber Learning Center, room 185
Local Contact: 
Jenny Hoffman
Intended Audience: 

The process of constructing and exploring computational models can offer significant support for the development of conceptual understanding of key ideas in physics. However, most students who take introductory physics courses in college have had no prior exposure to programming. By selecting a minimal set of computational concepts to teach, and by introducing these concepts in the context of physics activities, we have been able to engage beginning students in constructing and refining computational models of interesting physical systems. The use of VPython allows students to produce navigable real-time 3-D animations as a side effect of their physics calculations. Research on how students engage with such models has helped refine instructional strategies. I will show examples from mechanics and from an introductory level course on soft condensed matter.


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