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De La Salle University

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Algebra in Physics: Exploring Math-Science Integration

Through Lesson Study

St. Scholastica’s Academy, City of San Fernando, Pampanga, Philippines

Email: sir.raej@gmail.com

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.

Introduction

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).

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.

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.

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

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 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.

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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