Redish, Edward F., and Eric Kuo. “Language of Physics, Language of Math: Disciplinary Culture and Dynamic Epistemology.” Science & Education 24, no. 5 (July 1, 2015): 561–90. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11191-015-9749-7.
I recently finished this paper on the differences in the use of mathematics between physics and mathematics as viewed from a linguistics/semantics standpoint and it was quite informative. Often folks discussing undergraduate curricula (including here at UMass Amherst) speak of the need to simply require physics majors to take more math courses. This paper provides an interesting counter perspective. This paper may also be an interesting addition to P691G.
I also think that this paper, along with several of the references therein that I would like to read, has further reinforced my idea that the prep for 131 should be reconsidered. I really think that it should be, to quote the paper, “without the equations.” I will, of course, keep the mathematical reviews as needed because we will do math but a strong conceptual stance in preparation is the way to go. In class, we can then focus on the translation to mathematics as an explicit skill.
Yesterday, I met with Theresa Austin, of the College of Education’s Language Literacy, and Culture program, and Adena Calden of the Department of Mathematics, about this issue. The goal being to determine what insights from the teaching of English to ESL students could perhaps be employed to teach my students their second language of mathematics. The conversation was productive. In particular, she provided an excellent procedure for the in-class translation exercise:
Let students try to translate the physical concept themselves into mathematical language.
Allow them to collaborate as a team to form a communal definition.
Have each team write their definitions on the whiteboards.
Do a gallery walk activity involving critique and voting for the best one.
For step 4, I will need to think more about how to facilitate constructive criticism. Perhaps Chris Ertl, who has done some neat work on poster sessions for the labs, can provide some good suggestions.
I am currently reading a book entitled Get Better Faster: A 90-Day Plan for Coaching New Teachers by Paul Bambrick-Santoyo. While a more detailed review will come later, there is one point that is of particular interest. The author suggests that, when monitoring student work, the monitors (in my case myself and the TAs) should go to the fastest groups first. At first glance, this seems counterintuitive: shouldn’t the in-class assistants spend the most time with those groups who struggle the most? Bambrick-Santoyo, however, points out that going to the fastest groups first has two benefits:
The in-class assistants get a good sense of where the students are likely to struggle and what alternative conceptions students have. While I always encourage my TAs to work the problems in advance and while we discuss them in our weekly meetings, these efforts are not always sufficient. By attending to the fastest groups first, TAs in particular get a in-the-trenches sense of where students are likely to stumble.
Attending to the fastest groups first gives those groups who need a little more time the time they need to progress to the point where they are in a position to ask a question or get feedback.
Again, I am sure there will be more to come from this book, but I wanted to share that out.
This video, from one of my favorite educational YouTube channels, takes on the learning styles myth. I have found this myth to be very harmful in my own classes: students end up having a fixed mindset about their ability to learn physics for which they use the learning styles myth as a support/excuse. I really wish that we could do away with this myth and present all information in all the modalities that support that type of information to help all learners do their best.