Initial understanding of vector concepts among students in introductory physics courses

Ngoc-Loan Nguyen, David E. Meltzer
2003 American Journal of Physics  
We report results of an investigation into physics students' understanding of vector addition, magnitude, and direction for problems presented in graphical form. A seven-item quiz, including free-response problems, was administered in all introductory general physics courses during the 2000-2001 academic year at a large mid-western university; responses were obtained from 2031 students during the first week of class. We found that more than one quarter of students beginning their second
more » ... of study in the calculusbased general physics course, and more than half of those beginning the second semester of the algebra-based sequence, were unable to carry out two-dimensional vector addition. Although total scores on the seven-item quiz were somewhat better for students in their second semester of physics instruction in comparison to students in their first semester of study (80% vs. 71% for students in the calculus-based course; 62% vs. 47% for students in the algebra-based course), many students retained significant conceptual difficulties regarding vector methods that are heavily employed throughout the physics curriculum. Nguyen and Meltzer, Initial understanding of vector concepts 1
doi:10.1119/1.1571831 fatcat:4okzupclmfdc5bcnnefl2q5sxe