Session S12 (Sunday, 2pm, Thomas 218)

P70: Not all proportions are created equal: Some logical and pedagogical breaches between mathematics and chemistry education

Donald Wink (University of Illinois at Chicago, USA)

Many studies indicate that students with strong mathematical backgrounds do better in chemistry courses. A simple interpretation of these studies suggests that students who struggle with the mathematical calculations in chemistry do so simply because they do not know some of the fundamental mathematics. This paper will discuss how, in some cases at least, the issue may actually be attributed to science education materials and educators obscuring the fundamental mathematics, resulting in an understandable failure of the students to transfer their mathematical knowledge into science. Specific examples involving proportions will be given to show that some things that are considered to be expressions of proportional reasoning, like the full ideal gas law, are in fact much more complex. In addition, the logical and practical differences among carrying out mathematical operations on expressions, relations, and equations will be discussed.


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