What should be taught first: biology, chemistry, or physics?I am wondering about how people view science education in terms what sequence should science be taught in high school. Different schools...

What should be taught first: biology, chemistry, or physics?

I am wondering about how people view science education in terms what sequence should science be taught in high school. Different schools have different sequences in which they teach their science courses. When I was in high school, I took my physics freshman year. Then, chemistry my sophomore year and biology my junior year. What are your thoughts?

Asked on by cgrant2

22 Answers

sanjeetmanna's profile pic

sanjeetmanna | College Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

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All the subjects are so interrelated that i would be difficult to decide which should be tought first.

Biology deals with Living organism.

Physics deals with properties of matter and energy.

Chemistry deals with chemical composition and properties of a substance.

From the starting that is from the low grade all the subjects should be started simultaneously, so that it will be easy to correlate all the subjects.

Correlating all the subjects helps in understanding and their application.

One more advantage of starting simultaneously would be avoiding confusion.

bandmanjoe's profile pic

bandmanjoe | Middle School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

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I agree, it has to be biology first, followed by chemistry, then winding up with physics.  Biology gives you the overview of living things, then chemistry gets into why the living things live.  Physics gets into an explanation of electricity, magnetism, and forces involved in the working world around us.  This seems to be the logical flow in most schools I have been involved in.

literaturenerd's profile pic

literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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I took biology first. After that, was chemistry. Never made it to physics...more on the literature side for my classes. As for my daughter, who is going into high school, it is the same: bio/chem/physics.

lmetcalf's profile pic

lmetcalf | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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I completely agree with biology then chemistry and then physics for the reasons noted above, most importantly, the need for higher level math skills. I would also add that a basic understanding of biology makes a good foundation for the content of the other curricula. For example, understanding respiration makes a chemistry conversation about why the human body needs water (h2o) more interesting an relevant. What does the human body need hydrogen for?Oxygen? Those kinds of connections to prior learning enhance the understanding of new knowledge.

trophyhunter1's profile pic

trophyhunter1 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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It has to be biology, chemistry then physics. Biology doesn't require higher level math--sometimes graphing, percentages and basic math is needed, however, these are math skills students should already have in place for high school. In chemistry, one must be able to do equations. In physics, the level of math is more sophisticated. One needs algebra and trig. Therefore, physics should be taught last.

rrteacher's profile pic

rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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I took a basic physical science course as a 9th grader, then Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. I think that is about the right order, as for me, anyway, I didn't have the math skills to do well in Chemistry or Physics until that point. As others have said in the thread, this is a common concern. One of my colleagues who teaches Chemistry has often complained that his students lack the basic math skills to succeed in the course.

pacorz's profile pic

pacorz | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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In my school, we teach Physical Science in ninth grade - it is a composite of Chemistry and Physics, and is a low-math introduction to both. Biology is taught in tenth grade, and generally Chemistry in eleventh and Physics in twelfth. I have had some students reverse the order of Chem and Physics, but I prefer having seniors in Physics because they have had the necessary math to do more advanced problems.

shake99's profile pic

shake99 | Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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I also took biology first. Chemistry and physics required more math, so they were offered later in the curriculum. I think that chemistry and physics require a bit more abstract thinking also, and that's something students become better at as they get older.

marbar57's profile pic

marbar57 | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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I took Biology first, Chemistry next, and Physics last.  Biology is pretty easy for most everyone to understand so it was given first in the sequence of things.  The reason I think Chemistry and Physics were offered for the upper grades is that both those subjects required a good foundation in the upper mathematics in order to be able to solve complex equations. 

The high school I went to also offered Botany (the study of plants) to all the grades, and Physiology (the study of the human body) to the upper grades.  Botany's pretty easy to learn so it's offered to everyone.  But, the reasoning behind offering Physiology after Biology is that first you learn about all living things, then you narrow your focus to one kind of living thing:  man. 


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Kristen Lentz | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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I took five science in high school.  As a freshman I took biology I, sophomore chemistry I, junior Biology II, senior Chemistry II and Physics.  I don't know if that was the best route, but I was very prepared for any science class college threw at me once I got there.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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For me it was biology as a sophomore, chemistry as a junior and then physics as a senior.

I don't think I'd want to take physics earlier because I, at least, didn't have enough math as a freshman to do physics to any great degree.  I liked our sequence mainly because it seems to me that biology is easier and therefore more suited to younger students than chem or physics.

nalinidwivedi's profile pic

nalinidwivedi | Student, College Freshman | (Level 1) Honors

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user2595947's profile pic

user2595947 | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) eNoter

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In my opinion i think the order should be physics then biology then chemistry. Chemistry at my school is taught junior year. Be we have earth and environmental science instead of physics. Physics is still an option though.  I think chemistry and physics should be required. We take earth and environmental science our freshmen year, biology sophomore year, and chemistry, physical science, or physics our junior year. 

nikitajay88's profile pic

nikitajay88 | eNotes Newbie

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I was taught physics and biology in the first year of junior high and then chemistry in highschool.  I would choose biology first, and then chemistry and physics later. Since i don't have the math skills needed. But my school has set it so that physics and biology were taught early and i have some difficulties because of it.

crystaltu001's profile pic

crystaltu001 | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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For my school we learned Biology in freshman year because it was the simplest or the easiest out of those three. In sophomore year we learn Chemistry because it gets hard. In one of the next two years junior or senior year we learn physics.

caseym427's profile pic

caseym427 | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) eNoter

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The order I'm taking classes is Biology, Chemistry, then physics.  I think this works well because, as others have said before, Biology doesn't require high level math.  Also, at least the way it's taught at our school, Biology had some basic organic chemistry.  I think this is a introduction to Chemistry and doing science classes in any other order wouldn't be as beneficial.  

vaishaligahlot's profile pic

vaishaligahlot | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

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first it is better to read chemistry then biology as you can understand the concept of enzymes and chemical reactions in the body better while physics is completely different so doesnt make much difference

jsinghhh25's profile pic

jsinghhh25 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

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even though i had to take biology, chemistry, and then physics. I think physics should be thought first because its the mother of all sciences. From physics you get the concepts of chemistry and from that biology. Physics is the fundamental science. It is the most important to understand anyother science.

bel-bel's profile pic

bel-bel | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) Honors

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The way I have generally learnt it is biology, chemistry and then physics. 

I think this was because biology is generally easier to understand and is more easily related to what students already know. Then chemistry is more complex to understand and involves things that a student can not always visualise or see. Physics is then the next step, tackling ideas that are purely theoretic and thereby harder to grasp and relate to life.