## The "Maths Labs"
The use of
But we gradually became aware of a problem with this approach. Based on observations of the materials in use, and our reading in the educational research literature, we began to have doubts about whether an approach based exclusively on "learn, then apply" was the best we could do. Students find transferring knowledge from one area to another notoriously difficult, and although "learn, then apply" is valuable in higher education, indeed probably indispensable, we felt it was legitimate to wonder whether it was enough on its own. We began to look for ways of building in explicit links between mathematics and chemistry right from the start of the course, and we became convinced that Briefly put, our idea was this. Explicitly linking mathematics and chemistry as you go along is difficult in general, because first-year students at the start of their courses rarely know enough mathematics for the exercise to be meaningful, and if they are restricted to trivial and contrived chemistry problems, the point is lost. However, if the students have at their disposal powerful mathematical software, then it is possible to give them access to problems of more intrinsic interest to the would-be chemist. In this paper, I report on our experience with the Mathematics Laboratories we have been running with this aim in mind. The term Mathematics Laboratory was one we coined early on, but with hindsight one can see that it was something of a misnomer five years ago. Then, it was simply meant to suggest an approach to teaching that encouraged students to pose and to test conjectures. The usage has grown more apt with time, though, as we have introduced a measure of explicit scientific content into the first-year mathematics course in chemistry. For an important part of their time on the course, students work on problems that genuinely belong to the field of physical chemistry, but they bring mathematical and computational tools to bear on them.
Actually, various kinds of activity go on in the Maths Labs: learning how to use Converted by Mathematica
September 30, 1999
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