Students and quantum mechanics

The latest issue of Physics Today has a freely available article that, under the title Improving students’ understanding of quantum mechanics, gives a very interesting analysis of student’s difficulties when faced with university courses in Quantum Mechanics:

Extensive testing and interviews demonstrate that a significant fraction of advanced undergraduate and beginning graduate students, even after one or two full years of instruction in quantum mechanics, still are not proficient at those functional skills. They often possess deep-rooted misconceptions about such features as the meaning and significance of stationary states, the meaning of an expectation value, properties of wavefunctions, and quantum dynamics. Even students who excel at solving technically difficult questions are often unable to answer qualitative versions of the same questions.

The article goes on describing little problems posed to students and how they revealed fundamental misconceptions (if you know a bit about QM you may find interesting to try your hand at them too), and proposing ways of improving their understanding by means of interactive software and tutorials (more fun ahead). Recommended.

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3 Responses to “Students and quantum mechanics”

  1. Physicist Amok Says:

    Teaching quantum mechanics

    Physics Musings points to a Physics Today article about common misconceptions of quantum mechanics students. This is a topic dear to my heart, as I hope someday to teach the subject myself.
    I have a lot of ideas about what to include and how to presen…

  2. koantum Says:

    That’s the stuff I am dealing with on a daily basis for I can’t remember how many years.
    Before you can teach quantum mechanics (as I do) to undergraduates (and even the last two higher secondary grades) you’ve got to have a solid understanding of what it all amounts to. If the teachers don’t have it, where are the students supposed to get it? I could go on indefinitely but I’ll spare you that. Check out my blog http://koantum.wordpress.com/ (especially the categories “Teaching QM” and “Quantum semantics”) or visit my site http://thisquantumworld.com

  3. Physicist Amok » Blog Archive » Teaching quantum mechanics Says:

    […] Physics Musings points to a Physics Today article about common misconceptions of quantum mechanics students. This is a topic dear to my heart, as I hope someday to teach the subject myself. […]

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