# ANALYSIS OF STUDENT UNDERSTANDING OF SCIENCE CONCEPTS INCLUDING MATHEMATICAL REPRESENTATIONS: pH VALUES AND THE RELATIVE DIFFERENCES OF pH VALUES

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## ABSTRACT

In general, mathematical representations such as formulae, numbers, and graphs are the inseparable components in science used to better describe or explain scientific phenomena or knowledge. Regardless of their necessity and benefit, science seems to be difficult for some students, as a result of the mathematical representations and problem solving used in scientific inquiry. In this regard, several studies have attributed students’ decreasing interest in science to the presence of these mathematical representations. In order to better understand student learning difficulties caused by mathematical components, the current study investigates student understanding of a familiar science concept and its mathematical component (pH value and logarithms). Student responses to a questionnaire and a follow-up interview were examined in detail. “Measure” and “concentration” were key criteria for students’ understanding of pH values. In addition, only a few students understood logarithms on a meaningful level. According to students’ understanding of scientific phenomena and mathematical structures, five different student models and the critical features of each type were identified. Further analysis revealed the existence of three domains that characterize these five types: object, operation, and function. By suggesting the importance of understanding scientific phenomena as a “function,” the current study reveals what needs to be taught and emphasized in order to help students obtain a level of scientific meaning that is appropriate for their grade.

## KEY WORDS

learning difficulty logarithms mathematical representation pH value and scale typology understanding of science concepts## Preview

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