A primary goal of physics is to create mathematical models that allow both predictions and explanations of physical phenomena. We weave mathematics extensively into our instruction beginning in high school, and the level and complexity of the math we draw on grows as our students progress through a physics curriculum. Despite much research on the learning in both physics and math, the problem of how to successfully teach most of our students to use math in physics effectively remains unsolved. A fundamental issue is that in physics, we don't just use math, we think about the physical world with it. As a result, we make meaning with mathematical symbology in a different way than mathematicians do. In this talk I analyze how developing the competency of mathematical modeling is more than just "learning to do math" but requires learning to blend physical meaning into mathematical representations and learning to use that physical meaning in solving problems. Examples are drawn from across the curriculum.
Language of physics, language of math: Disciplinary culture and dynamic epistemology, E. F. Redish and E. Kuo, Science & Education, 24:5-6 (2015-03-14) 561-590. doi:10.1007/s11191-015-9749-7
Watch a video of the colloquium.