npsm 새물리 New Physics : Sae Mulli

pISSN 0374-4914 eISSN 2289-0041


Research Paper

New Physics: Sae Mulli 2016; 66: 50-60

Published online January 29, 2016

Copyright © New Physics: Sae Mulli.

An Analysis of the Meanings of Physics Equations with a Focus on the Ontological and Epistemological Dimensions

Minchul KIM, Yongwook CHEONG, Jinwoong SONG*

Department of Physics Education, Seoul National University, Seoul 08826, Korea


Received: October 15, 2015; Revised: November 3, 2015; Accepted: November 4, 2015

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


A physics equation is a symbolic representation of physics knowledge through mathematical modeling. The equation is a medium that links physics with mathematics, making necessary a teaching and learning approach in which physics equations can be used to provide a way of understanding physics concepts beyond their use as a simple tool of physics problem solving. This study provides a hierarchical analysis at three levels on the meanings of physics equations. In the process, the difference between physics equations and mathematics formulae, and the difference between the physical meanings and the mathematical meanings of physics equations are analyzed. In particular, the physical meanings of the equations are analyzed and synthesized in ontological and epistemological dimensions. The framework and the results of this study may provide a foundation for more meaningful teaching and learning of physics equations.

Keywords: Physics equation, Physical meaning, Mathematical meaning, Ontological category, Epistemological category

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