Science & Education

, Volume 24, Issue 5–6, pp 487–494 | Cite as

Introduction of the Thematic Issue on the Interplay of Physics and Mathematics

  • Ricardo Karam


Natural philosophy [physics] is and ought to be mathematics, that is, the science in which laws relating to quantity are treated according to the principles of accurate reasoning (Maxwell 1856, p. 429).

Mathematics is primarily man’s finest creation for the investigation of nature. The major concepts, broad methods, and even specific theorems have been derived from the study of nature; and mathematics is valuable largely because of its contributions to the understanding and mastery of the physical world (Kline 1981, p. vii).

Since their beginnings in the ancient world, physics (natural philosophy) and mathematics have been deeply interrelated 1, and this mutual influence has played an essential role in both their developments as illustrated in the quotations above. However, the image typically found in educational contexts is often quite different. In physics education, it is usual to find mathematics being seen as a mere tool to describe and calculate, whereas in...


Mathematical Concept Physical Situation Thematic Issue Historical Case Study Didactical Transposition 
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  3. Kline, M. (1981). Mathematics and the physical world. New York: Dover.Google Scholar
  4. Maxwell, J. C. (1856). Inaugural lecture, Aberdeen, 3 November 1856 in P. M. Harman (ed.), The scientific letters and papers of James Clerk Maxwell. Cambridge University Press, 1990.Google Scholar
  5. Poincaré, H. (1907). The value of science. New York: The Science Press.Google Scholar
  6. Wigner, E. (1960). The unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in the natural sciences. Communications on Pure and Applied Mathematics, 1(1), 1–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Science EducationUniversity of CopenhagenKøbenhavn KDenmark

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