1. This small group activity is designed to help students become familiar with the Partial Derivative Machine (PDM), a mechanical system which allows students to measure partial derivatives and determine various physical quantities, including potential energy.
  2. Students use the PDM to determine which properties of the physical system they can control and which ones they can measure.
  3. The whole class wrap up discussion focuses on the fact that not all of the properties of the physical system are independently controllable, and leads students to think about what is being held fixed when they measure a derivative.

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