Addressing student difficulties with statistical mechanics: The boltzmann factor

Trevor I. Smith, John R. Thompson, Donald B. Mountcastle

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

9 Scopus citations

Abstract

As part of research into student understanding of topics related to thermodynamics and statistical mechanics at the upper division, we have identified student difficulties in applying concepts related to the Boltzmann factor and the canonical partition function. With this in mind, we have developed a guided-inquiry worksheet activity (tutorial) designed to help students develop a better understanding of where the Boltzmann factor comes from and why it is useful. The tutorial guides students through the derivation of both the Boltzmann factor and the canonical partition function. Preliminary results suggest that students who participated in the tutorial had a higher success rate on assessment items than students who had only received lecture instruction on the topic. We present results that motivate the need for this tutorial, the outline of the derivation used, and results from implementations of the tutorial.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication2010 Physics Education Research Conference, PERC
Pages305-308
Number of pages4
DOIs
StatePublished - 2010
Event2010 Physics Education Research Conference, PERC - Portland, OR, United States
Duration: Jul 21 2010Jul 22 2010

Publication series

NameAIP Conference Proceedings
Volume1289
ISSN (Print)0094-243X
ISSN (Electronic)1551-7616

Other

Other2010 Physics Education Research Conference, PERC
CountryUnited States
CityPortland, OR
Period7/21/107/22/10

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)

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