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ERIC Number: EJ1074913
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2015-Sep
Pages: 3
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0031-921X
Recognizing Prefixes in Scientific Quantities
Sokolowski, Andrzej
Physics Teacher, v53 n6 p358-359 Sep 2015
Although recognizing prefixes in physical quantities is inherent for practitioners, it might not be inherent for students, who do not use prefixes in their everyday life experiences. This deficiency surfaces in AP Physics exams. For example, readers of an AP Physics exam reported "a common mistake of incorrectly converting nanometers to meters." Similar students' mistakes were reported also by AP Chemistry readers "as in previous years, students still had difficulty converting kJ to J." While traditional teaching focuses on memorizing the symbols of prefixes, little attention is given to helping learners recognize a prefix in a given quantity. I noticed in my teaching practice that by making the processes of identifying prefixes more explicit, students make fewer mistakes on unit conversion. Thus, this paper presents an outline of a lesson that focuses on prefix recognition. It is designed for a first-year college physics class; however, its key points can be addressed to any group of physics students.
American Association of Physics Teachers. One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740. Tel: 301-209-3300; Fax: 301-209-0845; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Secondary Education; Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A