Mathematical difficulties encountered by physics students in kinematics : a case study of form 4 classes in a high school in Botswana

Moyo, Ndumiso Michael (2020-03)

Thesis (MPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2020.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT : The study set to investigate the mathematical difficulties that students encounter when learning kinematics in physics. It examined the nature of mathematical difficulties, their possible sources and the potential impact they might have during construction of their own knowledge. If a teacher knows in detail the difficulties experienced by students during knowledge translation process between mathematics and physics, one can decide how mathematics might be supportive and develop new teaching strategies that can help to overcome their problems. An understanding of the physical science concepts forms the basis upon which new physical science knowledge is constructed. The pragmatic paradigm was useful to gather instruments that would help to answer questions for the study. A cohort 40 students out of a population of 600 learners doing Physics Pure Award randomly participated in the study. A diagnostic test was useful to establish a baseline knowledge about students’ conceptions and misconceptions in Mathematics and Physics. A survey questionnaire administered in which 35 students responded to interrogate the nature of mathematical difficulties encountered by physics students when learning kinematics. Purposive sampling was useful to select six participants for the individual and focus group interviews. The main findings of the study confirmed existence of a variety of mathematical difficulties that hinder the effective learning of kinematics. Students lack adequate skills related to simplifying equations, determining the square root, making one value a subject of the formula, factorising, solving simple fractions and dividing and subtracting negative and positive numbers as often used in the equations of motion to describe different patterns of movement. The use of symbolic representations instead of numbers unlike in mathematics made students to have difficulties in understanding physics concepts. Symbols were often confusing to the learners as they are interchangeable used in a multiple of representation in physics. Students had problems in understanding graphs because of mathematics used to explain different concepts such as reading coordinates, calculating the gradient and determining the area under the line of a graph. Recommendations emanating of the study so as to improve teaching and learning in Mathematics and Science education include in-service training workshops to both Physics and Maths teachers to resource them on how to handle maths related concepts in the two subjects. It also requires that the teachers from the two subjects where possible should engage team teaching. To the curriculum developers it would be better to find out about the kind of mathematics to promote interdisciplinary learning.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING : Die studie het ondersoek ingestel na die wiskundige probleme wat studente ondervind tydens die aanleer van kinematika in fisika. Daar is ondersoek ingestel na die aard van wiskundige probleme, hul moontlike bronne en die potensiële impak wat dit op die konstruksie van hul eie kennis kan hê. As 'n onderwyser in detail weet wat die probleme ondervind word tydens die vertaalproses tussen wiskunde en fisika, kan 'n mens besluit hoe wiskunde ondersteunend kan wees en nuwe onderrigstrategieë ontwikkel wat kan help om hul probleme te oorkom. 'N Begrip van die fisiese wetenskaplike konsepte vorm die basis waarop nuwe fisiese wetenskaplike kennis gekonstrueer kan word. Die pragmatiese paradigma is gebruik om instrumente te versamel wat sou help om vrae vir die studie te beantwoord. Altesaam 40 studente uit 'n bevolking van 600 leerders wat die Fisika Suierstoekenning verwerf het, is lukraak gekies om aan die studie deel te neem. 'N Diagnostiese toets is gebruik om 'n basiese kennis oor studente se opvattings en wanopvattings in Wiskunde en Fisika te vestig. 'N Vraelys vir opnames is uitgevoer waarin 35 studente gereageer het om die aard van wiskundige probleme wat fisika-studente ondervind het tydens die aanleer van kinematika te ondervra. Doelgerigte steekproefneming is gebruik om ses deelnemers vir die individuele en fokusgroeponderhoude te kies. Die belangrikste bevindings van die studie het bevestig dat daar 'n verskeidenheid wiskundige probleme is wat die effektiewe leer van kinematika belemmer. Studente het nie voldoende vaardighede wat verband hou met die vereenvoudiging van vergelykings, die bepaling van die vierkantswortel, een waarde tot onderwerp van die formule maak nie, faktorisering, die oplos van eenvoudige breuke en die verdeling en aftrekking van negatiewe en positiewe getalle, soos dikwels gebruik in die bewegingsvergelykings om verskillende bewegingspatrone te beskryf. . Die gebruik van simboliese voorstellings in plaas van getalle anders as in wiskunde, het studente moeilik gemaak om fisika-konsepte te verstaan. Die simbole was dikwels verwarrend vir die leerders, aangesien dit dikwels verwissel word in 'n veelvoud van die fisika-voorstelling. Studente het probleme ondervind met die begrip van grafieke as gevolg van wiskunde wat gebruik is om verskillende konsepte te verduidelik, soos die lees van koördinate, die berekening van die gradiënt en die bepaling van die oppervlakte onder die lyn van 'n grafiek. Aanbevelings oor die studie ten einde onderrig en leer in Wiskunde- en Wetenskaponderrig te verbeter, sluit in-werkswinkels vir beide Fisika- en Wiskunde-onderwysers om hulle te help om wiskunde-verwante konsepte in die twee vakke te hanteer. Dit vereis ook dat die onderwysers uit die twee vakke, waar moontlik, spanonderrig moet doen. Vir die kurrikulumontwikkelaars is dit beter om uit te vind oor die soort wiskunde om interdissiplinêre leer te bevorder.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/108011
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