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Letter to the Editor

Graphic Literacy

While I understand Paul G. Hewitt’s reasoning behind his suggestion to quickly teach kinematics in a physics course (“Focus on Physics,” February 2019, p. 10), I believe that he is overlooking the potential benefit derived from spending the time to teach students about motion.

As a teacher in an urban district, I serve a number of students whose math and reading abilities fall well below grade level. These deficiencies are brought to the forefront in science class where students are expected to read and interpret texts, such as graphs. Graphic literacy is not only central to learning science, but also a skill that is tested on many state and national assessments. Furthermore, graphs are an ever-present feature of society. The February issue of The Science Teacher itself contained eight.

When many, if not all, of my students struggle to produce and interpret graphs, it becomes necessary to devote instructional time to this skill. The kinematics unit provides a perfect opportunity to provide direct instruction on the creation and interpretation of graphs along side relatively simple content. The time devoted to building students’ graphic literacy pays off as more complex topics are presented later in the course. Additionally, the students are able to learn a skill they will use for the rest of their lives. As a result, I’m not convinced that I should slim down my kinematics unit just yet.


Matthew O’Connor
Science Teacher
Beechcroft High School
6100 Beechcroft Rd, Columbus, OH 43229



Of all the science courses offered to an American student in a lifetime, physics reaches the fewest. Math courses, in contrast, reach all students—year after year. So why not teach graphical analysis and even kinematics problem solving in one of several math courses as some math teachers currently do? The lonely physics class should be the place to teach physics only, not physics-related material that can be taught in any number of math classes. This allows time to teach a wide swath of physics only, getting up to rainbows, and even to a smattering of relativity. 

Paul G. Hewitt

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