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Choice Theory in Physics and Math Classes – Middle School and High School

We increase our teaching potential as we model everything we study and expect to see in our students.

During our teaching practice at Rochester School, we have studied and incorporated new pedagogical concepts that have become principles of life and of our daily work.

We have also received the constant invitation to keep in mind the principles, criteria and tools of Choice Theory in our classes and in the spaces we share outside the classroom; and why not in our way of life outside the school. 

It is more viable to talk about Choice Theory when we understand it as a useful tool and transform it into actions; in such a way that it becomes a natural part of our language, of some of our classroom practices, and from our behavior, modeling what we think and say. Remembering one of St. Francis of Assisi’s famous phrases, about using examples to teach and when necessary using words, we want to share some of the approaches we have taken to model Choice Theory with our students; understanding that they can be refined, according to feedback from the Rochester community.

Let’s begin:

The study of matter is vast in its many ramifications, so it is helpful to do lab practicals to understand and appropriate many of these concepts. When studying mixtures, we find some ways to reverse the process and obtain the original substances, that is, before generating the mixture. Two such processes for separating mixtures are decantation and filtration. 

By doing each practice, we were able to make interesting analogies about the way our brain processes information.

In the decanting practice, we had a conversation about how some of our feelings can be mixed being opposites (positive and negative, without categorizing them as good or bad). By recognizing and decanting these feelings, they will become part of our perceived world and in turn a good resource to draw on when making decisions, and even to strengthen us in new experiences. In Seventh Grade we separated a mixture of water and oil by decanting, and each of the separated components represented a different feeling.

In the filtration practice we analyzed the information we received through the sensory system, the filter of knowledge and valuation, we filtered the information that will be important for each of us, storing and feeding our world of quality. The practice was done with a mixture of sand and water: 

This mixture represents all the information coming into our brain.

The filter paper represented the filters of value and knowledge, and the perceived world.

The water passing through the filter paper represents the stored information that feeds our world of quality.

The wet sand resembles information that is not important to everyone, therefore it is discarded from the perceived and quality world.

By introducing the concept of balancing chemical equations, we analyzed our world of quality and how we behave to achieve what we want, making the similarity of having two elements that when they react, their atoms rearrange, demonstrating the conservation of mass. A demonstrative practice was carried out in which a certain volume of vinegar and a few grams of sodium bicarbonate represented what we have; what we wanted to obtain was carbon dioxide. By performing the reaction we saw how the atoms were reorganized, giving rise to carbon dioxide and this process resembles the way we behave to achieve a proposed goal.

In both mathematics and physics classes, the Cartesian plane is used to analyze and communicate behaviors of interdependent variables. This concept has helped us to analyze from counterexamples, that while the behavior of physical variables depends on other variables, our behaviors depend only on each of us. In fifth grade we analyzed how while kinetic energy depends on mass and velocity, and gravitational potential energy depends on mass, height and gravity, the control of our actions depends only on ourselves;  

Likewise, in manipulating the atoms that are part of a compound, students identify and relate the coefficients of a molecule, as the actions that we can control and the subscripts of the molecule as the behaviors of others that are not in our control.

We have incorporated axioms 1 and 2 of Choice Theory, analyzing dependent variables in some topics such as linear motion and functions, as a way to strengthen the language of inner control. Students write texts on how these axioms differentiate us from physical variables, which behave according to the values of the independent variables.

A quality school based on Choice Theory recognizes interpersonal relationships as the foundation for student success, as criterion 1 states: Criterion 1: Relationships are based on trust and respect. To explicitly incorporate this criterion, we analyzed the benefit of relating variables correctly in a laboratory practice so that we can obtain optimal results mathematically. One such example was to analyze the relationship between physical variables to obtain exponential functions in a 11th grade math class. The aim was to study the drainage behavior of a bottle with different orifices. Some of the variables analyzed were the initial height of the water inside the bottle, the number of holes and their diameter, and time. For this purpose, the concepts of quality relationships with the variables interrelated in the practice to be done were spun from the circle meeting to the processing. 

If what each student and their families are looking for is success in all school work, we want to invite them to analyze the following graph in the Cartesian plane; this has been useful in math and physics classes that we energize to strengthen points and notable concepts, so that each student is motivated to go at a pace if well differentiated from their peers, with the purpose of reaching their goal in a satisfactory manner:

The first graph shows us the intercept with the Y-axis and also the slope. This intercept can be compared with the starting point of the graph of our own success. In that same graph we can see the slope of the line, which represents the inclination of the line, which can be compared with the level of effort or motivation that we develop when we set a goal. In the second graph we can see the comparison between the variation of the position with respect to time. In it, the intercept is 1 and each interval has a different slope. So if we compare it with the graph of success, it is likely that our motivation has ups and downs, but we can overcome them according to the potential we have. The third graph shows us that above a person’s starting point, our motivation, which can be positive or negative, will lead us to the goal or not. This analogy was proposed by BYU mathematics professors.

Our objective in presenting these examples is to propose the integration into our classes of important points of Choice Theory that connect with our professional work. 

We would like to thank Giovanna González and Sonia Muñóz, who collaborated with the revision and correction of this article.

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