Developmentally, children are ready for measurement concepts as soon as they have learnt to count. However since mathematics has the reputation of being a difficult subject, there might be some doubt about whether, by this integration, we risk loading the science curriculum with mathematics. We propose that the level of mathematical thinking demanded in the science curriculum be slightly lower than that required by the mathematics curriculum. This gap is necessary for practical reasons, as in actual teaching, the sequence of topics in the two subject areas might not be coordinated very well. In an ideally integrated curriculum this problem would not arise.
A persistent difficulty in our attempt to link science learning with mathematics is that the real world is fickle and erratic. The neat laws of science have rarely arisen out of pure empirical observation. Even simple quantitative patterns can be hard to notice in a mess of measurement errors. Besides, the tools of measurement available to the primary school child are usually primitive and crude. Given these limitations, is it possible in the primary science curriculum to conceive of simple measurement activities that can add meaning to everyday experiences? The answer, from our experience, is "yes".
These ideas about the role of mathematics in primary science have been developed in the context of the Homi Bhabha Curriculum. They are presented here in the spirit of work in progress. We would be very happy to get feedback from other workers in the field: do these ideas seem reasonable and workable? What problems can be anticipated? What further possibilities can be explored? If similar ideas have been tried elsewhere, what have been the results? Please do write and contribute to this discussion.
Jayashree Ramadas January 1999