Quantification in Empirical Activity

Changing where, when, and how objects are studied is central to lab-based science (Knorr Cetina, 1999). Science involves changing the scale of objects—particularly scales of size, time, and intensity—from what is experienced in the world. Similar to investigations conducted in science laboratories, classroom investigations involve re-representing and re-scaling entities, manipulating them, and observing effects in new locations and timescales. However, this aspect of investigation is under-studied and under-utilized as a resource for learning. We argue that, from elementary school, children can experience quantification, or identifying, developing, and working with variables, as consequential and can take up differences in representation and scale in empirical investigations as opportunities for sense-making and conceptual progress. We describe two instantiations of an investigation into heating and cooling, showing that 7- and 8-year-old students oriented to gaps and ambiguities related to temperature and that the redesign supported children and teachers to take up temperature for productive sense-making and conceptual progress. We examine opportunities for quantification across the heating and cooling investigation and a second investigation into landforms. This work has implications for supporting quantification in science activity in the early grades and using empirical investigations as opportunities for sense-making.

Manz, E. and Beckert, B. (2021). Quantification in Empirical Activity. Science & Education.