Teaching Secondary Science: Constructing Meaning and Developing Understanding

By Keith Ross; Liz Lakin et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 13
Numeracy in Science

Chapter overview

Most scientists are numerate. When ideas are tested, data are needed, graphs are
plotted, statistical tests are applied and ideas begin to have substance. In contrast,
pupils often find numbers daunting and unhelpful. This chapter looks at ways to
help pupils make friends with numbers, sometimes by letting the computers do the
number crunching, and suggests ways in which we can introduce numeracy into
our teaching to enhance the scientific understanding of our learners rather than
baffle them.


Maths and science
Common sense suggests maths teachers should liaise with staff from other departments in the school so that (a) there is a consistency of approach within the school and (b) pupils can see how important and useful maths can be in their everyday lives. You therefore need to agree with the maths team your approach (and timing) to:
■. the use of units and how to get a feel for them;
■. how graphs are to be represented;
■. mathematical notation and terms to be used;
■. algebraic and other mathematical techniques, such as how algebraic expressions are to be simplified or how equations (especially simple proportion) are to be solved;
■. how and when ICT resources such as graph plotters or graphical calculators will be used.

Maths teachers need to know that almost every scientific investigation or experiment is likely to require one or more of the mathematical skills of classifying, counting, measuring, calculating, estimating and recording in tables and graphs. Add to that: work on decimals; simple proportion, calculating means and percentages; deciding

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