Arms Sequence for Complex Numbers and Quantum States

“Arms” is an engaging representation of complex numbers in which students use their left arms to geometrically represent numbers in the complex plane (an Argand diagram). The sequence starts with pure math activities in which students represent a single complex number (using prompts in both rectangular and exponential forms), demonstrate multiplication of complex numbers in exponential form, and act out a number of different linear transformation on pairs of complex numbers. Later activities, relevant to spin 1/2 systems in quantum mechanics, explore overall phases, relative phases, and time dependence. These activities can be combined and sequenced in many different ways; see the Instructor's Guide for the second activity for ideas about how to introduce the Arms representation the first time you use it.

Curvilinear Coordinate Sequence

The curvilinear coordinate sequence introduces cylindrical and spherical coordinates (including inconsistencies between physicists and mathematicians notational conventions) and the basis vectors adapted to these coordinate systems.

Integration Sequence

Students learn/review how to do integrals in a multivariable context, using the vector differential \(d\vec{r}=dx\, \hat{x}+dy\, \hat{y}+dz\, \hat{z}\) and its curvilinear coordinate analogues as a unifying strategy. This strategy is common among physicists, but is NOT typically taught in vector calculus courses and will be new to most students.

Power Series Sequence (E&M)

The first three activities provide an active-engagement version of the canonical mathematical and geometric fundamentals for power series. The subsequent activities apply these ideas to physical situations that are appropriate for an upper-division electromagnetism course, using concepts, terminology, and techniques that are common among physicists, but not often taught in mathematics courses. In particular students use the memorized formula for the binomial expansion to evaluate various electrostatic and magnetostatic field in regions of high symmetry. By factoring out a physical quantity which is large compared to another physical quantity, they manipulate the formulas for these fields into a form where memorized formulas apply. The results for the different regions of high symmetry are compared and contrasted. A few homework problems that emphasize the meaning of series notation are included.

Note: The first two activities are also included in Power Series Sequence (Mechanics) and can be skipped in E&M if already taught in Mechanics.

Quantum Ring Sequence

Students calculate probabilities and expectation values for a quantum mechanical particle confined to a circular ring in bra/ket, matrix, and wave function representations and compare the different calculation methods. Several different graphical representations of the time dependence for both states with special symmetry and arbitrary states are explored in a Mathematica notebook. Compared to the analogous particle-in-a-box, this quantum system has a new feature---degenerate energy eigenstates.

Ring Cycle Sequence

Students calculate electrostatic fields (\(V\), \(\vec{E}\)) and magnetostatic fields (\(\vec{A}\), \(\vec{B}\)) from charge and current sources with a common geometry. The sequence of activities is arranged so that the mathematical complexity of the formulas students encounter increases with each activity. Several auxiliary activities allow students to focus on the geometric/physical meaning of the distance formula, charge densities, and steady currents. A meta goal of the entire sequence is that students gain confidence in their ability to parse and manipulate complicated equations.