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Styles of Science Education 2001-02 Forum

Styles of Science Education 2001-02 Forum


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Connections between science and math
Name: Lisa Chirl
Date: //2001-10-01 09:51:46 :
Link to this Comment: 346

Paul,

I appreciate your detailed comments. I think I agree with many of your points, particularly avoiding the erection of barriers to people pursuing science as a study. However, I do believe that we need to help people understand science, not by using mathemetics as a "be all and end all" of that study but instead as a tool which helps to further our understanding. As we discussed, students too often take a mathematical relationship as proof of correctness, even when they are applying that relationship incorrectly! We need to help people learn to expand their basic intuition about numerical relationships to those that we use in science.

I think that we need to look at the relationship between science and mathematics as just that--a relationship. Sometimes mathematical relationships and functions help us extend our understanding of a physical phenomenon, other times our observation of a physical phenomenon causes us to extend or totally change our mathematical models. But, to do this, I think we need to also teach this way, instead of teaching subjects as a series of discrete boxes.

People also need help extending their numerical intution (or perhaps just some help with confidence in their own ability). I find, when teaching here at BMC, that students have little problem dealing with numerical relationships involving familiar systems (If I want to make two cakes and each cake needs four eggs, how many eggs do I need?). However, the extension of this type of intuition to chemical reactions often seems quite foreign to them, and needs to be explicitly described.

Finally, we need to emphasize thinking as part of learning science. For whatever reason, students often approach the study of science as a series of algorithms to be memorized and applied. This approach seems to cause students to emphasize the mathematical formulas at the expense of real understanding.

I look forward to hearing from you and others on these topics.

Lisa