Mathematics in Physics Education

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(Group Leader: GESCHE POSPIECH, TU Dresden, Germany)

The goal of physics education consists in conveying the principles and concepts of physics as complete as possible to the students. The description of physical processes by mathematical means is one of the most characteristic traits and most powerful tools of physics. In order to investigate these interrelations from an educational perspective, many questions arise. The overarching question is: Can the domain of mathematical structures improve the understanding of physical concepts and if so, in which way? What interplay of mathematics and physics is appropriate to teach topics of modern physics in school level? In this connection it is important to stress that a broad meaning of the term “mathematics” is needed: it includes all kinds of structuring and ordering physical processes: using abstract methods like idealization and modeling as well as using a broad range of mathematical elements such as diagrams, graphs and formalized sketches (e. g. arrows) and equations.

In order to address this complex theme from different perspectives and theoretical frameworks international efforts have to be made. Therefore all people interested in this subject “Mathematics in Physics education”, are invited to contribute to the Thematic Group or join the Group during the GIREP Meetings and Conferences. The following aspects might be possible:

  • Content-related research: Basis for all teaching mathematics in physics is the thorough analysis of physical concepts with respect to their mathematical representation, requiring to derive the essential formal structure.
  • Interdisciplinary research: How can the different perspectives of mathematics and physics be exploited in analyzing the interplay? What are the conceptions of physics’ teachers about the interdependence between mathematics and physics and how can they affect their lessons?
  • Students’ perspective: The development of learning pathways requires the exact knowledge of the difficulties pupils experience with the transfer between mathematics and physics. Questions could be: When and how should the relations between mathematics and physics be approached in the context of education? What kind of difficulties do students experience when using mathematics in physics?
  • Teacher education: An important part would be the development and evaluation of courses for teacher education.

In establishing this thematic group we are looking forward to ideas concerning open questions, to workshops or meetings and to research contributions as well as critical remarks. All people interested in these questions are invited to put forward their ideas and to start a discussion about this subject.

For further information, please email to Gesche Pospiech