Difficulties in the concepts of direction and sense of a vector among Spanish-speaking students Dificultades en los conceptos de dirección y sentido de un vector de estudiantes hispanohablantes
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© 2014, Foundation Journal of Science Education. All rights reserved. In this article we investigate the understanding of the concepts of direction and sense of a vector among Spanish-speaking students. In all Spanish speaking countries, vectors are usually defined by magnitude, direction (line of action) and sense. On the other hand, in the United States, only the concepts of magnitude and direction (which in two dimensions is the angle between the vector and a reference axis) are used to define a vector. In Mexico, the first convention is usually used, however, because of the translation of books originally written in English, the American convention is introduced in this country too. In this study we administered a test to 512 students completing introductory physics courses at a Mexican university. We found alternative conceptions in the concepts of direction and sense, and difficulties due to the coexistence of the two conventions. A number of implications for the instruction of these two concepts in Spanish-speaking countries can be drawn from the results of this study.