It has never been the most popular subject in A-level mathematics, the public examination for 16^18-year olds, either with students, teachers or educators. The attempts to popularize mechanics have failed and it is conceivable that the subject will be dropped from the A-level syllabus in the foreseeable future.This article argues the importance of mechanics and why it should be integral to secondary school mathematics: Mechanics is the exemplar of mathematical model-ling, is the logical point of entry for the enculturation into scientific thinking and provides the means to develop an understanding of the relationship between mathe-matics, the theoretical objects of science and the way science and mathematics speak of the world. It enables learners across the ‘ability range’ to think in the abstract and as such should be taught prior to the 6th form, that is, prior to the post-compulsory level of education. School in Kumbakonam
is a subject in A-level mathematics as well as in physics.A-levels (Advanced Level General Certificate of Education) are the main public examinations for 16–18-year olds (the 6th Form), and A-level mathematics comprises of both pure and applied. Up until a few decades ago, A-level ‘applied mathematics’ was deemed to be mechanics,but now mechanics shares its place with statistics and decision mathematics. Mechanics is not as prominent as it once was, and is slowly becoming more and more marginalized due to its lack of popularity, mirrored by the way the state has reorganized the A-level modules that make up‘mathematics’. This article attempts to show why mechanics is the essential ingredient for a liberal education, an education that involves the way science and mathematics speak of the world .
It may seem strange to think of mechanics as a subject in secondary school mathematics but there is an historical precedence here. The professional division of labour within mathematics between ‘pure’ and ‘applied’ is only just over a century old (16) and many leading mathematicians of the past were also physicists and vice-versa. For example, Euler’s mechanics for the rotationof a rigid body, Gauss’s work on electromagnetic forces, Galileo on probability. The pointis, mechanics is very much a subject in mathematics as it is science and should be respected as such.
Studies of scientific illiteracy reveal a situation that is culturally alarming, not just becausethey indicate that large percentages of the population do not know the meaning of basicscientific concepts, and thus have little if any idea of how nature functions and howtechnology works, but because they suggest widespread antiscientific views, and illogicalthought. Newspaper astrology columns are read by far more people than science columns;the tabloid press, with their Elvis sightings and Martian visits, adorn checkout counters andare consumed by millions worldwide each day.