10. Mathematical Methods of Inquiry

Abstract: It is not uncommon in introductory physics courses for teachers to tell students to conduct an error analysis or determine the precision of their results. Neither is it uncommon for teachers to request percent error or percent difference. Students sometimes are asked to determine how well overall experimental results align with a prediction. This is not infrequently done without providing students with explicit instruction about what is expected. This chapter describes the simple pendulum lab and uses it as a paradigm for understanding the methods of scientific inquiry, including many of the mathematical methods with which all physics teachers should be familiar.

More about Generic Experimental Design – Mathematical Methods with Lower Complexity Systems – Inadequate Range of Data – Inadequate Separation of Data Points – Using Graphs to Interpret Data – Absolute and Relative Error – Graphical Relationships – Absolute and Relative Error – Error Propagation – Percent Difference versus Percent Error – Formal Lab Reports – A Student Laboratory Handbook