McKagan Perkins Dubson Mailey Reid LeMaster Wieman - AJP 2008

Developing and researching PhET simulations for teaching quantum mechanics.
American Journal of Physics, Volume 76, Number 4 (April 2008), pp. 406-417

S. B. McKagan, K. K. Perkins, M. Dubson, C. Malley, S. Reid, R. LeMaster, C. E. Wieman

Quantum mechanics is counterintuitive, difficult to visualize, mathematically challenging, and abstract. The Physics Education Technology (PhET) Project now includes 18 simulations on quantum mechanics designed to improve the learning of this subject. These simulations include several key features to help students build mental models and intuition about quantum mechanics: visual representations of abstract concepts and microscopic processes that cannot be directly observed, interactive environments that directly couple students’ actions to animations, connections to everyday life, and efficient calculations so that students can focus on the concepts rather than the mathematics. Like all PhET simulations, these are developed using the results of research and feedback from educators, and are tested in student interviews and classroom studies. This article provides an overview of the PhET quantum simulations and their development. We also describe research demonstrating their effectiveness and discuss some insights about student thinking.