Building the Basic Concepts of Quantum Mechanics with Math and Computer Science Students

  • Marisa Michelini
  • Francesca MontiEmail author
  • Lorenzo Santi
  • Giacomo Zuccarini
Conference paper
Part of the Springer Proceedings in Physics book series (SPPHY, volume 190)


A teaching module of eight hours was carried out with four computer science Ph.D. students and five math students enrolled at the University of Verona (Italy) in order to calibrate an Inquiry-Based proposal on Quantum Mechanics for non-physics majors and to develop educational supporting tools. The path is situated in the context of linear polarization of photons, employing a formal approach based on the description of the quantum state as an abstract vector, both representing a needed background for students interested in Quantum Computing and Quantum Cryptography. A special focus is given to the superposition principle and its interpretation in a particle-like description, as well as to the different and new meaning of measurement. Single photon entanglement and the superposition of spatially separated states are also addressed. The proposal includes exploration through real experiments with macroscopic light beams, using Polaroid filters and birefringent crystals, and through ideal experiments on single photons, using a specifically developed Java applet. Seven worksheets were developed to support student concept building. Preliminary data analysis elicits two important conceptual hurdles: recognizing the active role of Polaroid filters with respect to the polarization of the photon; recognizing that a single particle can exist in a superposition of spatially separated states.


Single Photon Polarization State Light Polarization Quantum Cryptography Math Student 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Bennett, C., & Brassard, G. (1984). in Proceedings of IEEE International Conference on Computers, Systems, and Signal Processing, Bangalore, India (pp. 175–179). New York: IEEE.Google Scholar
  2. Bennett, C. (1992). Physical Review Letters, 68, 3121.ADSMathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ekert, A. K. (1991). Physical Review Letters, 67, 661.ADSMathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Ghirardi, G. C., Grassi, R., & Michelini, M. (1995). A fundamental concept in quantum theory: The Superposition Principle, in Carlo Michelini M. (2008) Approaching the theory of QM, in Frontiers of Physics Education, R. Jurdana-Sepic et al. (Eds.) (pp. 93–101). Rijeka: Zlatni.Google Scholar
  5. Michelini, M., Ragazzon, R., Santi, L., & Stefanel, A. (2000). Proposal for QM in secondary school. Physics Education, 35(6), 406–410.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Michelini, M., Ragazzon, R., Santi, L., & Stefanel A. (2004). Discussion of a didactic proposal on QM with secondary school students. Il Nuovo Cimento, 27 C(5), 555–567.Google Scholar
  7. Michelini, M., & Stefanel, A. (2010). In G. Santoro (Ed.), New trends in science and technology education (pp. 307–322). Bologna: Clueb.Google Scholar
  8. Michelini, M., Santi, L., Stefanel, A., & Meneghin, G. (2002). A resource environment to introduce quantum physics in secondary school. In Proceedings International MPTL-7.

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marisa Michelini
    • 1
  • Francesca Monti
    • 2
    Email author
  • Lorenzo Santi
    • 1
  • Giacomo Zuccarini
    • 1
  1. 1.Physics Education Research UnitUniversity of UdineUdineItaly
  2. 2.Department of Computer ScienceUniversity of VeronaVeronaItaly

Personalised recommendations