Introduction to the Propagation of Error©
Peter J. Hansen
Department of Chemistry
Northwestern College
101 7th Street SW
Orange City, IA 51041
United States
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In this document the author presents a systematic development of the basic principles of propagation of error. The lesson starts with an examination of the error in computing the area of a rectangle given the uncertainties in the length and width of the rectangle. Next a step by step development of the concept is applied to the computation of the density of a substance. Students are expected to follow the authors instructions and repeat them with a simple function of their own. This gives the required hands-on experience that fosters learning. This document would dispel the typical fear that students have of partial differentials when they are starting their first semester of physical chemistry. As no advanced Mathcad functions are used in this document, it would be a very good choice for use at the beginning of the semester in the laboratory segment of the course. The document may also be useful in analytical chemistry courses. Development of this document was made possible by the NSF supported 1997 "Workshop for Integration of Numerical Methods into the Undergraduate Physical Chemistry Curriculum Using the Mathcad Software" at the University of South Alabama, Mobile Alabama. An Introduction to Mathcad is a suitable companion for this document.
Audiences: Upper-Division Undergraduate
Pedagogies: Computer-Based Learning
Domains: Analytical Chemistry, Laboratory Instruction, Physical Chemistry
Topics: Chemometrics, Mathematics / Symbolic Mathematics
File NameDescriptionSoftware TypeSoftware Version Instructional and Computational Mathcad Document Mathcad
Err6prop.pdf Read-Only Document
Comments to: Peter J. Hansen at
©Copyright Peter J. Hansen, 1996. All rights reserved. You are welcome to use this document in your own classes but commercial use is not allowed without the permission of the author.