Mathematical knowledge and skills needed in physics education for grades 11 and 12
Molefe, Franscinah Kefilwe
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The performance of mathematics and physical science students are very low in South Africa. These students lack algebraic knowledge and skills in physics education. They tend to treat mathematics and science as separate entities; to them the two subjects are not related. Even the teachers seem not to realise the interrelationship of the two subjects, because according to the research, they perpetuate this attitude. A possible reason could be that they are unfamiliar with common objectives and applications. Knowledge of science is enhanced by the application of mathematics, but the role of mathematical knowledge and skills in the understanding of physical science is uncertain. Even in the new National Curriculum Statement (NCS) of South Africa the relationship between mathematics and physical science is not clearly indicated. Algebraic language is a main tool used in physics, but students still display a lack of understanding of mathematical concepts and problem solving skills. The study was aimed at identifying the mathematical knowledge and skills that would enable students to solve physics problems in grades 11 and 12. The aim was also to identify the specific problems experienced by students in applying these skills and knowledge in physics at grades 11 and 12 level. The empirical study was conducted amongst a group of 120 students in four schools in the Rustenburg Region, North- West Province, South Africa and 28 teachers of which 10 were from these schools and 18 were teachers participating in the Sediba project of the North-West University. The investigation was done by means of a self constructed test and questionnaires. The results indicate that the biggest problem lies with a lack of conceptual knowledge, especially with a basic understanding of proportional reasoning. Other problems were identified and possible remedies proposed.
- Education