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Johnson and Walling present at national physics educators meeting

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Charlotte Walling, BHSU senior mathematics major from Rapid City, presents research at the annual meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers. Walling worked with Dr. Andy Johnson, associate director of CAMSE at BHSU, to investigate difficulties students have understanding half-lives of radioactive materials.

Black Hills State University senior Charlotte Walling and Dr. Andy Johnson, associate director of the Center for Math and Science Education at BHSU, recently presented a poster on their research at the annual meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers in Greensboro, N.C.

Walling, a mathematics education major from Rapid City, and Johnson presented their work on the difficulties students have understanding half-lives of radioactive materials.

The two researchers investigated student ideas in Johnson's physics courses. While Johnson worked with the class, Walling listened to what the students were saying about radioactivity and half-lives of materials. The two examined classroom data and collaborated on the conclusions they presented in the poster.

According to Johnson, the ideas they uncovered contribute useful information to groups who are developing more effective materials for teaching physics.

"Charlotte has a great ability to listen to other people and figure out how they are thinking, so she made very useful contributions to this project,” Johnson said. “I'm pleased that she had the opportunity to attend this meeting and rub elbows with some of the big players in physics education research."

"It was great to attend. I met a bunch of people and learned a lot about physics teaching,” Walling said. “It also felt good to make a contribution to physics education. Now that I see more of what is going on, I'd really like to continue studying both math and physics education."

Johnson received his master’s degree in physics from Arizona State University and his Ph.D. in math and science education from San Diego State University. He has been a member of the BHSU faculty since 1999.

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