Integrating math and science content through covariational reasoning: the case of gravity

Nicole Panorkou, Erell Feb Germia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Integrating mathematics content into science usually plays a supporting role, where students use their existing mathematical knowledge for solving science tasks without exhibiting any new mathematical meanings during the process. To help students explore the reciprocal relationship between math and science, we designed an instructional module that prompted them to reason covariationally about the quantities involved in the phenomenon of the gravitational force. The results of a whole-class design experiment with sixth-grade students showed that covariational reasoning supported students’ understanding of the phenomenon of gravity. Also, the examination of the phenomenon of gravity provided a constructive space for students to construct meanings about co-varying quantities. Specifically, students reasoned about the change in the magnitudes and values of mass, distance, and gravity as those changed simultaneously as well as the multiplicative change of these quantities as they changed in relation to each other. They also reasoned multivariationally illustrating that they coordinated mass and distance working together to define the gravitational force. Their interactions with the design, which included the tool, tasks, representations, and questioning, showed to be a structuring factor in the formation and reorganization of meanings that students exhibited. Thus, this study illustrates the type of design activity that provided a constructive space for students’ forms of covariational reasoning in the context of gravity. This design can be used to develop other STEM modules that integrate scientific phenomena with covariational reasoning through technology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)318-343
Number of pages26
JournalMathematical Thinking and Learning
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2021


  • Covariational reasoning
  • STEM integration
  • design experiment
  • gravity
  • quantitative reasoning
  • technology


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