Academic journal article Science Scope

Keeping Math in Perspective

Academic journal article Science Scope

Keeping Math in Perspective

Article excerpt

Of the eight science and engineering practices outlined in the Framework, two are related to math: Analyzing and Interpreting Data and Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking (NGSS Lead States 2013). Indeed, as middle school science teachers, we ask our students to collect numerous data points, represent data in graphical formats, derive the slopes of lines, and use simple statistics to interpret data. It therefore came as a surprise to me when I read an opinion espoused by famed biologist E.O. Wilson, who stated "many of the most successful scientists in the world today are mathematically no more than semiliterate" (2013). Astrophysics and quantitative chemistry aside, Wilson makes the point that scientists do not have to be mathematical geniuses to be successful in their chosen craft. Wilson contends that "for every scientist, there exists a discipline for which his or her level of mathematical competence is enough to achieve excellence."

We may do well to remember Wilson's observations, particularly when working with students who struggle with math and analytical thinking. Some students may not be developmentally ready to apply mathematical concepts, while others may struggle because they can't easily transfer knowledge learned in one class to another. Whatever the case, students who aspire to be scientists should be encouraged to follow their dream regardless of their mathematical ability. As teachers, we can foster an appreciation of math by using science to motivate students to learn math. …

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