Math and physics

Yesterday I bemoaned the large separation between the teaching of high school math and the teaching of high school physics. Let’s go beyond that, and ask the question “What would it mean for these two topics to be taught in a coordinated way?”

Could our high schools integrate such topics together in a more seamless manner? I wonder whether the impediment is not so much an inherent issue, but rather something structural.

Perhaps there is something fundamental in the process of high school level education that requires keeping subjects separate. It might be that practical organizational issues, from the choice of a textbook to the training of teachers, actually rely on there being a clear intellectual firewall between different topics.

An alternative explanation, of course, is that there is no reason for the lack of coordination between courses, other than “That’s how we’ve always done it.”

If that is the case, then perhaps it is time to work out a more integrated curriculum. And then to do systematic user testing to validate whether such an approach would, in fact, create a better general appreciation for, and mastery of, math, physics, and the interactions between those topics.

3 thoughts on “Math and physics”

  1. For what it’s worth, I have created a website of public domain mathematics instructional materials. There is also a sprinkling of article on physics, with no firewall ever being presumed between the two subjects.

    These materials, under development for over 30 years, have been recognized by a congratulatory letter from the U.S. National Science Foundation.

    The website also contains a large amount of language-arts materials.

    The materials are all downloadable. There is also a section of interactive exercises. Here is the link to the algebra exercises, which can also serve as a portal to the website:

    The website contains a link to the NSF congratulatory letter.

    The main address of my website is:

    Mike Jones

  2. Applied math word problems: boringly abstract.
    Applied physics experiments: simple math mechanics.

    Do they need a common theme such as robotics and the supporting ‘science’ that powers them? The most important piece is inspiration. Agree on a few real-world applications of math and physics (like the cell phone in every kids pocket) and explain the overlap of the sciences.

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