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Math & Science Teachers as Learners

This summer I was asked to teach an Inquiry course in our STEM Teacher Education Program. The course is the last inquiry course that teacher-candidates take after they have completed their school practicum. As a result, they come to this course with much richer and more interesting experiences as compared to their previous, pre-practicum courses.

As part of this Inquiry course I decided to show teacher-candidates how an inquiry into a mathematics concept can span the subject borders and help us a much deeper understanding of the natural world. To do that I decided to explore the concept of logarithms and its applications into physics (decibels (dB)), chemistry (pH levels), earth science (Richter scale). The concept of logarithms has a very interesting history and numerous applications to everyday life – from the slide rules, to the understanding of natural phenomena that have a very vast dynamic range (change from super small to super big). I also have to say that I am a little biased towards logs as I still remember how my father taught me to use a slide rule (it is called a Logarithmic Rule in Russian). I even have a slide rule in my office. I am convinced that the inquiry into the history of the development of this mathematical concepts has a huge potential for mathematics and science educators. I also think that we should have a course on the history of ideas in mathematics and science to become a part of the Teacher Education Program.

In my Inquiry course, teacher-candidates also wrote (created) lesson plays where they imagined possible discussions teachers might facilitate in the classrooms in this context. I hope that the topic of logs helped us to explore how to facilitate inquiry in a mathematics or science classroom and engage students in meaningful learning.

References:

Zazkis, R., Liljedahl, P., & Sinclair, N. (2009). Lesson plays: Planning teaching versus teaching planning. For the Learning of Mathematics, 29(1), 39-46.

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