Students' understanding of vectors in the context of forces

S. Flores-García, L.L. Alfaro-Avena, O. Dena-Ornelas, M.D. González-Quezada

Abstract


A functional understanding of Newton's second law as a vector equation requires that students be able to reason about forces as vectors. In this paper, we present data describing students' conceptual difficulties with forces as vectors. These data suggest that after traditional instruction in introductory physics, some students do not recognize the vector nature of this quantity. Other students do not have the necessary procedural knowledge to determine net force or acceleration, and are therefore unable to reason qualitatively about Newton's second law. We describe some specific procedural and reasoning difficulties we have observed in the students' use of vectors in the context of forces and Newton's second law. In addition, we encourage modifications in the instruction of mechanics that we designed on the basis of our research into student understanding. These modifications are intended to improve the students' understanding of vector addition and subtraction and to promote the students' use of vectors insolving mechanics problems.

Keywords


Newton's second law; conceptual difficulties; forces as vectors

Full Text:

PDF

Refbacks

  • There are currently no refbacks.


REVISTA MEXICANA DE FÍSICA E, year 18, issue 1, January-June 2021. Semiannual Journal published by Sociedad Mexicana de Física, A. C. Departamento de Física, 2º Piso, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad Universitaria, Alcaldía Coyacán, C.P. 04510 , Ciudad de México. Apartado Postal 70-348. Tel. (+52)55-5622-4946, https://rmf.smf.mx/ojs/rmf-e, rmf@ciencias.unam.mx. Chief Editor: José Alejandro Ayala Mercado.  INDAUTOR Certificate of Reserve: 04-2019-080216402500-203, ISSN: 2683-2216 (on line), 1870-3542 (print), both granted by Instituto Nacional del Derecho de Autor.  Responsible for the last update of this issue, Technical Staff of Sociedad Mexicana de Física, A. C., Fís. Efraín Garrido Román, 2º. Piso, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad Universitaria, Alcaldía Coyacán, C.P. 04510 , Ciudad de México. Date of last modification, January 04, 2021.

The responsibility of the materials published in Revista Mexicana de Física E rests solely with their authors and their content does not necessarily reflect the criteria of the Editorial Committee or the Sociedad Mexicana de Física. The total or partial reproduction of the texts hereby published is authorized as long as the complete source and the electronic address of the publications are cited.

There is no fee for article processing, submission or publication.

Revista Mexicana de Física E by Sociedad Mexicana de Física, A. C. is distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License