Studies in the Chemistry/Mathematics Boundary at Secondary Level

Urquhart, Kathryn D (1975) Studies in the Chemistry/Mathematics Boundary at Secondary Level. MSc(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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It is at least twelve years since the Alternative Syllabuses in Chemistry and Mathematics were first introduced into Scottish schools. The new" syllabus in Chemistry stressed the importance of having pupils involved in learning by discovery and exploration while the "new" syllabus in Mathematics had as its main aim the encouragement of an interest in Mathematics and a greater understanding of fundamental principles. As the two subjects have developed in their own way over the past years, a considerable gulf has formed between them and now separates them. This research is concerned with a close examination of the present Chemistry and Mathematics syllabuses side by side and an attempt is made to identify real problem areas in Chemistry which are linked to Mathematics. The Chemistry and Mathematics syllabuses up to 'O' grade were set out in chronological order and this revealed some related topics which were obviously out of phase. Chemical topics were also examined for mathematical content and a list of these topics was drawn up. It showed just how much Mathematics there is in the Chemistry syllabus. Pupils in schools were then used as subjects in an examination of their ability to cope with some of these topics, e.g. chemical concept of 'containment', graphs and proportionality. It was borne in mind that the necessary mathematical skills had been taught in the Mathematics department and that Chemistry teachers assumed that for their needs the teaching was adequate and done at the right time. Findings showed (i) that the pupils' ability to grasp a concept was inadequate mainly because the concept chosen was not dealt with in context or not dealt with at all; (ii) that for graphs, the pupils' ability to picture data clearly and interpret it in real terms was not what it was assumed to be; (iii) that for proportionality, the mathematical operations were beyond pupils who had not reached 'formal' thinking level and chemists' teaching in chemical examples was a significant factor. The methods used included written tests and face to face investigation when pupils defined their methods of tackling problems. From results, it was possible to define for teachers and curriculum planners specific recommendations which can only better the present situation. In general, chemists are not aware of 'new' language, notation and methods used by Mathematicians, and so there is unavoidable confusion for the pupils, and hence they do not achieve the 'mastery' of topics they might aspire to. Choice of topics for a rewritten syllabus will be of prime importance for curriculum planners but they must also remember longterm objectives for making Chemistry a significant part of a child's education.

Item Type: Thesis (MSc(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Keywords: Science education, Mathematics education, Curriculum development
Date of Award: 1975
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1975-78703
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 30 Jan 2020 15:00
Last Modified: 30 Jan 2020 15:00

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