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Students use their arms to act out two spin-1/2 quantum states and their inner product.
Students move their left arm in a circle to trace out the complex plane (Argand diagram). They then explore the rectangular and exponential representations of complex numbers by using their left arm to show given complex numbers on the complex plane. Finally they enact multiplication of complex numbers in exponential form and complex conjugation.

Find the rectangular coordinates of the point where the angle \(\frac{5\pi}{3}\) meets the unit circle. If this were a point in the complex plane, what would be the rectangular and exponential forms of the complex number? (See figure.)

Fill out the table below that asks you to do several simple complex number calculations in rectangular, polar, and exponential representations.
Students, working in pairs, represent two component complex vectors with their left arms. Through a short series of instructor led prompts, students move their left arms to show how various linear transformations affect each complex component.

For each of the following complex numbers, determine the complex conjugate, square, and norm. Then, plot and clearly label each \(z\), \(z^*\), and \(|z|\) on an Argand diagram.

  1. \(z_1=4i-3\)
  2. \(z_2=5e^{-i\pi/3}\)
  3. \(z_3=-8\)
  4. In a few full sentences, explain the geometric meaning of the complex conjugate and norm.

Small White Board Question

5 min.

Adding Functions Pointwise
Many students do not know what it means to add two functions graphically. Students are shown graphs of two simple functions and asked to sketch the sum.
  • Found in: Static Fields, None course(s)


10 min.

Spin 1/2 with Arms
Students, working in pairs, use their left arms to represent each component in a two-state quantum spin 1/2 system. Reinforces the idea that quantum states are complex valued vectors. Students make connections between Dirac, matrix, and Arms representation.
Students, working in pairs, use the Arms representations to represent states of spin 1/2 system. Through a short series of instructor-led prompts, students explore the difference between overall phase (which does NOT distinguish quantum states) and relative phase (which does distinguish quantum states).


5 min.

Phase in Quantum States

In quantum mechanics, it turns out that the overall phase for a state does not have any physical significance. Therefore, you will need to become quick at rearranging the phase of various states. For each of the vectors listed below, rewrite the vector as an overall complex phase times a new vector whose first component is real and positive. \[\left|D\right\rangle\doteq \begin{pmatrix} 7e^{i\frac{\pi}{6}}\\ 3e^{i\frac{\pi}{2}}\\ -1\\ \end{pmatrix}\\ \left|E\right\rangle\doteq \begin{pmatrix} i\\ 4\\ \end{pmatrix}\\ \left|F\right\rangle\doteq \begin{pmatrix} 2+2i\\ 3-4i\\ \end{pmatrix} \]

Small Group Activity

10 min.

Matrix Representation of Angular Momentum
This activity allows students to puzzle through indexing, the from of operators in quantum mechanics, and working with the new quantum numbers on the sphere in an applied context.

Small Group Activity

30 min.

The Cylinder
This small group activity is designed to help students visual the process of chopping, adding, and multiplying in single integrals. Students work in small groups to determine the volume of a cylinder in as many ways as possible. The whole class wrap-up discussion emphasizes the equivalence of different ways of chopping the cylinder.
  • Found in: Vector Calculus I course(s)