2-7 June 2019
Simon Fraser University
America/Vancouver timezone
Welcome to the 2019 CAP Congress Program website! / Bienvenue au siteweb du programme du Congrès de l'ACP 2019 !

Should Gauss’s Law Be Taught in First Year?

Jun 4, 2019, 4:15 PM
SSB 7172 (Simon Fraser University)

SSB 7172

Simon Fraser University

Oral (Non-Student) / Orale (non-étudiant(e)) Physics Education / Enseignement de la physique (DPE-DEP) T4-10 Thinking Outside the Box (DPE) | Penser hors de la boîte (DEP)


Dr Robert Hawkes (Professor Emeritus, Mount Allison University)


Gauss’s Law is one of the most elegant and powerful relationships in physics, but should it be taught in first year? On the one hand, it provides the framework to truly understand electric fields, is an entry point to Maxwell’s equations, and enables a beautiful introduction to important ideas of flux and symmetry. On the other hand, in first year students will not have the vector calculus background for Gauss’s law. Is it possible we do more more harm than good by introducing Gauss’s law too soon in the undergraduate curriculum? The session will feature a debate between physicists Robert Hawkes and Bob Hawkes on the question. The audience will be encouraged to add their voices on either side of the debate. At the conclusion the audience will be asked to vote.

Primary author

Dr Robert Hawkes (Professor Emeritus, Mount Allison University)

Presentation materials