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Algebra in Physics: Exploring Math-Science Integration Through Lesson Study

Conference Paper · January 2016

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Algebra in Physics: Exploring Math-Science Integration
Through Lesson Study

Carbonell, Rae Jan Philippe S.


St. Scholastica’s Academy, City of San Fernando, Pampanga, Philippines
Email: sir.raej@gmail.com

Cortes, Francisco Jr. Q.


Holy Angel Univeristy, Santo Rosario St., Angeles City, Philippines
Email: cortesfranciscojr@gmail.com

Hasegawa, Kenji B.
St.Scholastica’s Academy, City of San Fernando, Pampanga, Philippines
Email: kenjitobesdb@gmail.com

Quaimbao, Jinky E.
Eastern Porac National High School, Porac, Pampanga, Philippines
Email: jinx26_me@yahoo.com

Elipane, Levi E.
University of the Philippines/ De La Salle University/Holy Angel University
Email: levielipane@yahoo.com

Abstract

The integration of concepts makes the learning process inter-disciplinary. Thus, it can be said
that applying the concepts learned in one discipline can be utilized in the other disciplines of
learning. This study focuses on how mathematics can be integrated in science. In order to
determine how integration is made in the teaching of science lesson, the researchers conducted a
lesson study that enables planning, observing, analyzing, and refining the ‘research lesson’ on
math-science integration. Themes on the implementation of the research lesson were identified
and were given suggestions in order to come up with a more developed lesson.

Keywords: lesson study, math-science integration

Introduction

Learning is a two-way endeavour of teacher-learner interactions. Teachers are supposed


to be equipped with the knowledge of how students learn. On the other hand, learners achieve
learning best if they are involved in a cyclical process of observing, applying, reflecting, and
sharing their experiences. In the context of mathematics and science learning, learners’
interaction with the approach of teaching the subjects is geared towards a student-centered
approach than traditional methods in order to inculcate among learners the skill in relating
perceived ideas to the subject matter presented at hand (Wrenn, J & Wrenn, 2009).
Owing to the importance of relating learned concepts to formulate another, this
constructivist-based interdisciplinary approach provides avenues for the learners to see the
relevance of ideas. Thus, integration of mathematics and science can make learners see the
shared concepts and factors in a meaningful and enriched way. The engagement of the learners to
the integrated approach of mathematics and science can motivate and increase achievement in
both disciplines (Furner & Kumar, 2007). However, as to how integration occurs in a
mathematics and science lesson depends on the presentation of the lesson itself. In the science
teaching, mathematics can be integrated “by using science applications to explain or practice
mathematics concepts or to employ the science to reinforce students’ interest in mathematics or
to enable the students to recognize the broad utility of mathematics” (Browning, 2015, p. 2).
In realizing the cogency of employing interdisciplinary approach, there is a need to
determine how integration transpires in a lesson and review the outcome. The researchers
conducted a lesson study that enables planning, observing, analyzing, and refining actual lesson
called ‘research lesson’ on math-science integration (Kambaru, 2015).

Review of Related Literature and Studies

Lesson Study (LS) is a Japanese educational practice that intervenes for the professional
development of teacher knowledge and practice on the subject matter by conducting classroom
action research observed by a group of teachers (Dudley, 2009; Anderson, Meyer, Wagner &
West, 2005). The processes involved in the LS basically entail planning, observing, analyzing,
and refining actual classroom lesson referred as ‘research lesson’ (Kambaru, 2015). Being the
core intervention for the teachers’ professional development in Japan, LS has catered for the
advancement of the Japanese elementary instruction especially in the mathematics education
where LS spotted the light of its recognition among the educational experts in the world (Lewis
& Perry, 2006; Fujii, 2016; Takahashi, 2015).
Fujii (2016) further discusses the LS process as follows: (1) goal setting, (2) lesson
planning, (3) research lesson, (4) post-lesson discussion, and (5) reflection. The goal setting
considers the attainment of the learning and development of the learners in the long-term sense.
The lesson planning phase addresses how the long-term goals are attained in the actual classroom
learning activities. Research lesson then implements the learning activities planned for the
attainment of the long-term goals set forth. The post-lesson discussion allows the insights of the
‘knowledgeable other’ from outside the school, who observed the entirety of the research lesson.
According to Takahashi (2015), this particular process allows the educational expert or
‘knowledgeable other’ to share to the researchers the strengths and weaknesses of the research
lesson, suggestions for improvement, and other considerations to be made in pursuing the
research lesson that would “permit teachers to learn not only new ideas for improving teaching
and learning but also help them to develop expertise” (p.7). The last process entails reflection
that considers the progress observed in the LS and synthesizes the insights for the actual
implementation of the research lesson in the classroom (Fujii, 2016; Takahashi, 2015).
In considering the implementation of the LS and the research lesson as its product, a
research theme has to be developed that would be addressed in the course of the study (Fujii,
2016; Takahashi, 2015). The focused theme in this study is the integration of mathematical
concept in the science teaching. Furner and Kumar (2007) note that successful integration of
mathematics and science emerges from problem-based learning. They further put, “in this
context, student success depends on the degree to motivate and engage students in meaningful
learning” (p.188). Thus, by making learners recognize and use the mathematical concepts in the
science problem-solving, learners also realize the interconnection of the concepts learned that
promote meaningful learning (Browning, 2015).
According to Treacy and O’Donoghue (2012), the theoretical foundation for the
meaningful learning through interdisciplinary approach is rooted in the theory of constructivism.
Problem solving is used to attain understanding using relevant skills that encourage learners “to
synthesize knowledge and skills from various disciplines to aid them successfully in completing
the challenge put to them” (p.3). This kind of instruction is rather considered as authentic
instruction. In the same manner, mathematics and science integration also requires authentic
instruction that allows learners to use learned concepts in attaining or constructing new ones.

Method

Inspired by the presentation of the lesson study conducted by Cajayon, Carbonell, Cortes,
Estipular, Tayag, and Dr. Elipane in the 2015 International Conference on Mathematics
Education organized by the Korean Society of Mathematical Education, the authors endeavored
on conducting a new lesson study anchored on exploring integration of mathematics and science
in secondary education. The lesson study consisted of three main phases: (a) planning phase; (b)
research lesson; and (c) post-lesson reflection and discussion.

Planning Phase
The learning content chosen for the actual research lesson was Power: The Rate of Doing
Work, a lesson from Quarter I (Force, Motion, and Energy) of Grade 8 Science in the Philippine
K to 12 Curriculum. Learning objectives were drafted based on the competencies specified in the
DepEd Curriculum Guide. A teaching demonstration of the research lesson was conducted at
Holy Angel University where in the authors served as the students. The demonstration led to
modifications and improvements in the lesson before the actual lesson was implemented.

Research Lesson
Eastern Porac National High School, a public secondary school located at Manibaug-
Libutad, Porac was chosen for the conduct of the actual research lesson. Porac is a town located
to the West of Angeles City in the province of Pampanga. The province is an hour’s drive from
Metro Manila, the capital of the Philippines.
The class consisted of fifteen (15) students randomly selected from a Grade 8 class of one
of the authors of this paper. The authors comprised the team that observed the actual lesson. The
lesson was basically comprised of three parts: (a) a brief motivation and lesson introduction, (b)
an outdoor group activity entitled “Who Has More Power?”, and (c) the discussion proper.
After the classroom routines were accomplished, the teacher asked two volunteers to
perform simple tasks as part of the motivation. The first volunteer was tasked to walk slowly in
the middle aisle of the classroom while the second volunteer was tasked to run through the same
path. The engaging question: “Which of the two has shown more power?” was then asked to the
class. The unanimous response was that the second volunteer who ran has shown more power.
When asked for the reason behind their response, students seem to relate power with speed or the
time needed to complete the task. Such response was used as a springboard for motivating the
class to explore the relationship between power and time as the lesson progresses.
For the outdoor activity the class was divided into two groups. Each group was given a
worksheet which consists of three tables, each focused on a given set of related quantities like
mass and weight, and force, displacement, and time. Each group has chosen a representative for
the outdoor activity. The mass of each representative was determined using a bathroom scale.
The chosen representative for each group were tasked to walk up a flight of stairs first, and then
run up the same flight of stairs. A timekeeper for each group was tasked to determine the
duration of time used by the representatives in walking and running.
Upon the completion of the needed data, the class headed back to the classroom for the
discussion. Relationships between quantities were established such as that of mass and weight,
weight and acceleration due to gravity, and weight as a form of force. Questions were given to
prompt the students to the concept that since weight is actually a force, the respective weight of
each representative can be used as the value of force needed in solving for the power. At this
point, scaffolds showing the transitive property of equalities were given. The students were
asked to apply the transitive property to come up with a derived formula that could be used to
solve for the power using the quantities recorded in their worksheets. The derived formula (P =
Fd/t) was correctly given by a student. The class was then asked to apply this formula in solving
for the power. After the completion of the worksheets, the students were led to the central
concepts of the lesson through synthesis questions. They were also led back to the initial insights
at the beginning of the lesson regarding the relationship of variables such as power and time.

Post-lesson Reflection and Discussion


Right after the conduct of the research lesson, the authors reflected on the development of
the lesson, expressed main points observed, and provided constructive comments. Insights
conveyed in the post-lesson reflection and discussion were coded and synthesized into main
themes. These themes are presented and expounded in the next section of this paper.

Results and Discussion

Passive Learning vs. Active Learning


The classic battle between passive learning and active learning was conceived from the
insights conveyed in the post-lesson reflection and discussion. In the research lesson, the outdoor
activity done was meant to encourage active learning of the students. Students were given
specific tasks such as tracking the time, recording data, walking and running up, and observing.
While it was true that the students had designated tasks, it was deemed that the other students
were limited only to the role of being ‘mere observers’ while a certain peer is doing the main
task of walking up and running up the stairs. The activity could have been designed better such
that it would allow greater and more active participation from all members of each group. More
than being passive observers, students could learn better by being active doers and thinkers.
The constructivist theory asserts that learners ‘construct’ and ‘reconstruct’ their
understanding of the world as they interact with it (Svinicki, 2006). To help our students create
their own learning, we should shift from the traditional method of lecture-discussion and make
our students become active learners through lessons anchored on active learning. In a meta-
analysis of 225 studies, Freeman et. al (2014) presented that active learning evidently increases
student’s performance in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Aside from
improving academic performance, empowering our students to be involved in their own learning
also makes them critical thinkers, innovative problem solvers, and creative lifelong learners

Procedural Fluency vs. Conceptual Understanding


In the research lesson, it was observed that the activity was too guided and students had
less opportunity to explore and connect concepts that will lead them to the desired outcomes. For
example, the worksheet used provided units for the quantities such as N for force, s for time and
W for power that gave too many clues that the students can easily identify variables that they
need to work on in solving the problem visually even without fully understanding it. In another
instance, when the transitive property of equalities was established as if a=b and b=c, then a=c
in deriving the formula for P, the teacher has given too much explanation and shown similarities
between the formula for work and power that the students just have to do substitution and derive
the formula for P visually without exploring and formulating their own strategies.
With this observation, a question about procedural fluency and conceptual understanding
could be taken into consideration. Which of the two must be given greater emphasis? Procedural
fluency according to Ginsburg (2012) is the knowledge of procedures; that is, using procedures
appropriately, accurately and flexibly in different problems and contexts. Conceptual
understanding on the other hand, according to Dreambox Learning (2016) is the understanding of
mathematical ideas and its application in new situations and contexts. Math educators have
debated which of is more important (Ginsburg, 2012). Now, the latest developments in
mathematics curriculum (Common Core State Standards) are anchored on a balance between
procedural fluency and conceptual understanding (Whizz Education, 2016).

Math and Science Integration


Math and science integration was also established in the conduct of the lesson study. The
authors made use of a mathematical concept in solving a problem in Physics, as the current
educational reform requires interdisciplinary approach in attaining scientific and technological
literacy among students (K to 12 Science Curriculum Guide, 2013). Davidson, Miller, and
Metheny (1994) presented five meanings of math and science integration, one of which covers
the type of integration used in the research lesson called process integration. This approach was
described as integration that makes use of real life activities in the classroom in which students
conduct, collect and analyze data, and report results; experiencing the processes in science and
performing the needed mathematics.
In the research lesson, math concepts were integrated in a physics lesson. Specifically,
the application of properties of equalities in formula derivation and problem solving were given
emphasis. It was a clear attempt to show how math could be applied in science. However, it was
also assessed that greater attention should have been given to integration at the early onset of the
lesson preparation. Being keen on details regarding math and science integration right at the
onset of the planning of the lesson would lead to learning activities that would give students a
better grasp of the connection between the two disciplines.
Real Life Integration
Students should be able to understand and see connections between theory and practice to
become more interested on what they are studying because they can be able to relate the new
learning to their own experiences. In the research lesson, the scientific concept of power was
simplified as the rate of doing work; in other words, how fast or how slow work is done. The
concept of power was presented in a simple manner through the use of common words that are
familiar to students. Instead of using very technical terminologies, simplifying concepts through
words that are within the common experience of the learners is a more viable way of helping
them fully understand these concepts. Connecting subject matter to real life situations that
students experience makes learning more relevant and meaningful.
Learners should not only learn the theory and understand why theories are important but
also learn how to apply these theoretical frameworks in practice (J.Wrenn and B. Wrenn, 2009).
Beyond formula derivation and problem solving, students should see for themselves the useful
and practical applications of the learning that takes place in school to the real life beyond the
confines of the school. Furthermore, if learner’s can successfully apply the theories they learn
into the various situations and experiences they encounter, then they can perceive things and
events in the real world in a more holistic light and thus, create possible solutions to the
challenges and problems they might encounter in our constantly changing world.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Lessons become meaningful and relevant to learners if these lessons allow them to
actively construct learning through actual experience and worthwhile activities. An effective
lesson is conceived through thorough planning. The entire process of the lesson study allowed
the authors to get immersed to the essence of planning, implementing, evaluating, and improving
lessons. This highlights the dynamic aspect of the teaching-learning process. In the process of
teaching, we are also learning. The diverse insights learned from the lesson study allowed the
authors to rediscover fundamental foundations of effective teaching and learning. Foremost is the
need to constantly put emphasis on active learning because learners learn better when they are
actively involved in the learning process. Teachers must also strike a balance between the
development of conceptual understanding and procedural fluency. The good grasp of concepts
and facility of procedures must be treated as intertwined pillars of effective learning. The
practice of integrating mathematics and science lessons must be given importance as well. Being
taught in a holistic approach, lessons become more meaningful to the students. Lastly, students
should see the relevance of the lessons they learn in school to the experiences in real life. When
students feel that what they are learning is anchored on real life situations, they also realize that
their learning is an essential tool they can use in the real world.

The authors came up with these recommendations based on the themes discussed. First,
our lessons should encourage active learning among our students. Students learn better when
they are actively involved in the process of learning. We are challenged to design creative and
innovative activities that would encourage them to be responsible of their own learning. Second,
a balance between procedural fluency and conceptual understanding should be ensured
specifically in Mathematics and Science lessons since both subjects require solid grasp of
concepts and good command of skills and processes. Learners should not just know how to solve
mathematical and science problems by applying memorized routines and procedures, rather,
problem-solving should be based on substantial understanding of fundamental concepts. Third, a
clear connection between disciplines must be established and given attention and importance in
the lesson preparation. Lessons should allow the learners to clearly explore and experience the
connection between disciplines, and should not compartmentalize one from the other, since in
the real world all things are interconnected. Connections should be visible and explicit during the
lesson for students to see the application of concepts between and across disciplines and be able
to apply these in different situations and contexts. Lastly, integration must not be limited
between and across subjects, it should transcend to real life. The lessons we plan and implement
must allow the learners to realize the significance of true learning and how this can be used in
living life with a deeper understanding and a greater purpose. Lessons become worthwhile and
relevant to the students if they clearly recognize how concepts and procedures could be applied
in real life situations within their own experiences and contexts.

References
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