Quantum mechanics has proven to be a challenging subject for instructors to teach and conceptually difficult for students to understand. A major source of the difficulty is the lack of everyday experience that quantum mechanics can be related to and the change in thinking required in transitioning from deterministic classical mechanics to a probabilistic quantum theory. Philosophically, the transition has been difficult to reconcile even amongst the physics community. Despite this, the epistemological and ontological underpinnings of instruction in quantum mechanics have not been well documented. In this paper, the philosophical commitments of two popular textbooks that are a staple in undergraduate and graduate classrooms around the world are analyzed to examine their interpretative and philosophical grounding. The textbooks are analyzed from the perspective of a student encountering quantum mechanics for the first time and are related to the well documented problems students face in trying to understand quantum mechanics. Recommendations for future textbooks are also made along with a call to enable students to engage in meaningful discourse and debate over the meanings of quantum mechanical systems.
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To avoid the trap of linguistic labels implying determinacy, I avoid using terms such as “wave” or “particle” and choose to adopt the more neutral term “entity” instead. While this runs the risk of technically inaccuracy in adopting a non-scientific term, the term is general enough to stand for any of the concepts under consideration.
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I would like to thank Dr. Greg Kelly for his stellar mentorship as well as for feedback and comments on earlier drafts of the manuscript. Thanks are also owed to faculty and colleagues at the College of Education. The work was indirectly made possible by the Graduate Research Fellowship, and my thanks go out to the institute for facilitating the work.
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Mohan, A.K. Philosophical Standpoints of Textbooks in Quantum Mechanics. Sci & Educ 29, 549–569 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11191-020-00128-4