Students’ understanding and application of the area under the curve concept in physics problems

Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 7, 010112 – Published 28 June 2011
Dong-Hai Nguyen and N. Sanjay Rebello

Abstract

This study investigates how students understand and apply the area under the curve concept and the integral-area relation in solving introductory physics problems. We interviewed 20 students in the first semester and 15 students from the same cohort in the second semester of a calculus-based physics course sequence on several problems involving the area under the curve concept. We found that only a few students could recognize that the concept of area under the curve was applicable in physics problems. Even when students could invoke the area under the curve concept, they did not necessarily understand the relationship between the process of accumulation and the area under a curve, so they failed to apply it to novel situations. We also found that when presented with several graphs, students had difficulty in selecting the graph such that the area under the graph corresponded to a given integral, although all of them could state that “the integral equaled the area under the curve.” The findings in this study are consistent with those in previous mathematics education research and research in physics education on students’ use of the area under the curve.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevSTPER.7.010112

  • Figure
  • Figure
  • Figure
  • Figure
  • Figure
  • Figure
  • Received 30 January 2011
  • Published 28 June 2011

Published by the American Physical Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Further distribution of this work must maintain attribution to the author(s) and the published article’s title, journal citation, and DOI.

© 2011 American Physical Society

CHORUS
Article part of CHORUS Pilot

Authors & Affiliations

Dong-Hai Nguyen and N. Sanjay Rebello

  • Department of Physics, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas 66506, USA

References

Authorization Required


×

Download & Share


PDF Export Citing Articles (4)
×

Images

×

Log In

Cancel
×

Search


Article Lookup
Paste a citation or DOI

Enter a citation
×
  1. Enter a citation to look up or terms to search.

    Ex: "PRL 112 068103", "Phys. Rev. Lett. 112, 068103", "10.1103/PhysRevLett.112.068103"