Motion in One Dimension

Motion in One Dimension was the first in a series of combined math/science exercises for freshman students.
Students walked backward away from a wall holding motion detectors, then marked their positions on the floor with tape. Others were at tables, bent over similar devices trying to decipher the results. This was the scene in the gym as all the freshmen came together to perform an experiment designed to blend physics and math concepts.

Motion in One Dimension was the first in a series of combined math/science exercises for freshman students. It was designed to study how position, velocity, and acceleration change as time elapses, to predict the behavior of an object in motion. The students worked in teams and used motion detectors that graph movement to first, understand what the graph for their movement forward and backward looked like, then to reproduce graphs generated by the devices.

This activity is part of a collaborative initiative by the math and science departments, which stems from a school-wide desire to expand its cross-curricular programs. “Building foundational concepts through participation in projects that integrate both math and science concepts only strengthen students’ ability to then apply these skills and understandings to more complex real-world problems they will encounter as they advance through our curriculum,” explained Alice Meyer, director of studies.

Anyone who has taken physics or chemistry knows that there is a direct correlation between math and science. So 3 years ago, our Math and Science Departments began to hold cross-departmental meetings to examine ways in which the curriculum coordinated and identify ways they could support each other. Teachers wanted to help students see the relationships between the two subjects, so students would move beyond compartmentalizing their knowledge and begin applying it wherever needed.

The departments developed a program to correlate the two subjects:
  • They adjusted vocabularies to match and support fluid movement between the two subjects. For example, in physics, the term “displacement” was replaced with “position.” This is the term used in upper level physics, but in early physics classes, the older term, “displacement” is used.
  • The math class shifted its early focus to problem solving (word problems) to help the students begin thinking about the unknown and successfully develop equations in physics.
  • The math department changed the order of subjects in the freshman math class. Students now learn what they need in physics before they need it. For this exercise, freshmen learned how to graph distance/time/velocity in advance so they were well prepared. Next, the math class will cover right-triangle trigonometry and the Pythagorean Theorem to prepare for vectors in physics.
  • Together, the departments developed monthly exercises that bring the math and physics classes together to perform experiments and generate data that can be used in both classrooms for additional study.
The next collaborative activity will be held during winter term. Check back for details and photos.

Back

More About Thacher

Interested in learning more about Thacher? Get to know us better here or request additional materials here.