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The Physics Education Group at the University of Washington has been investigating student difficulties in drawing and interpreting graphs of moving objects. In the study reported here, students observe an actual motion for which they are asked to sketch a graph. The procedures used by students who sketch correct graphs ("experts") are compared with the procedures used by students who produce inappropriate graphs ("novices"). We have been able to identify characteristic differences in the ways in which experts and novices define axes, represent the path of a motion, treat constant values, and check for consistency among related graphs. We have also examined the relation between conceptual understanding and the ability to produce correct position versus time, velocity versus time, and acceleration versus time graphs. Some implications for the design of instruction are discussed.
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