Combining Science and Mathematics in the Classroom
In education trends today, the movement seems to be toward integrated
classes. We are straying away from the restrictive Algebra I, Geometry,
Algebra II, ... classroom regiment. We can not only integrate different
areas of mathematics into a single class, we can also integrate other subjects.
I would like to show you in my examination of some data that it is not difficult
to combine science and mathematics.
In conjunction with a chemistry lab, have the students boil water and record
its temperature every minute for 30 minutes. The students should then bring
this data to the math class. By using a spreadsheet (Microsoft Excel, Lotus
1-2-3 Release x, Microsoft Works, etc.), instruct the students to enter
the data into a spreadsheet. In this situation, the teacher is really aiding
the students in learning or reenforcing several concepts. The students gain
experience in the chemistry lab, in entering and using a spreadsheet to
quickly manipulate data, and in finding the best fit curve (or line) to
fit the data.
Let's consider the data taken by students previously. Click
here to download an Excel file. If you cannot read an Excel file, there
is a copy of the original data at the bottom
of the page.
Assuming that you have looked at the data, the first step might be to graph
the data on an XY-scatter plot.
Now, you must guide your students (depending on their level and experience).
What type of curve would fit the data best?
Exploration of Different Types of Graphs
How would a line fit this data?
How would a quadratic (parabolic) function fit this data?
How would an exponential function fit the data?
Problems That May Arise
It would be good to have the students give answers to the question:
What problems arise by using each of these graphs?
It may be necessary to guide your students to some conclusions. For some
hints about things to discuss, click here.
What Can The Students Do?
If I have learned anything through my limited teaching experience, the most
important is definately about a teacher's expectations. The students can
do whatever you expect of them (sometimes with a little coaching and motivation).
It is very difficult to fit some data to a particular equation. However,
with the use of the spreadsheet package the students can do these activities
and get immediate results without relying solely on their computatioinal
skills. The spreadsheet does the "grunt work" for them. This requires
them to think about what the graph should look like and how to best simulate
it. Using the charting function again speeds up the feedback, which the
Just because data simulation can get difficult and involved, don't shy away
from it in your classroom. Give the students a task and the tools to complete
They will amaze you.!
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