# Numeracy in science

## Liasing with Maths Department

Issues from the research which typically arise in liaising with the Maths department include:

- Mismatch in timing between teaching maths and science concepts and skills;
- Maths department more interested in process than actual data - figures used convenient/easy to manipulate;
- Maths dept rarely use explicitly derived numerical data;
- Don't like to consider maths as a service subject,

## Reasons for lack of success

- Have never learned (e.g. fitting equations to lines);
- Do not recognise the work in science as maths they have done before;

Apply mathematical techniques inappropriately in science

## The AKSIS project

The AKSIS Project (ASE + KCL: Jan 1997-Dec 1999)

Looked at the effects of Sc1 on practice. Made recommendations for dev of successful strategies for Sc1. Analysed pupils' usage of graphs:

- >75% graphs incorrectly constructed;
- Pupils saw graphs as end in themselves;
- Very few referred to graphs when considering evidence;
- Many science teachers recognised pupils' difficulties, but very few explicitly taught how to construct graphs

## 16-17 year olds in science lessons

Example: 16-17 year-olds in science lessons:

In relation to converting between units 16-17 year old science students:

- Solve even simple conversion problems in a variety of ways;
- Are usually unsuccessful at conversions involving standard form notation or units with indices;
- Use calculator-based "try-it-and-see" approach to calculating conversions, (usually unsuccessfully);
- Make decisions on whether an answer is correct based on whether they expected the answer to be a "bigger or smaller" number than they started with.

## Graphs and science students

In relation to graphs, you may find that your students generally:

- Cannot work out the equation in a straight line;
- Never learned within the context of science how to represent a data set graphically eg fitting equations to lines. This will probably have been covered theoretically in mathematics and may have been taught differently;
- Have difficulties making links between a graph and the physical situation it represents;
- Are competent at the mechanics of graph plotting.

## Contextual issues

We invite further research in this area around contextual issues eg gender, ethnicity, background of students, environment and so on.

## Evidence

Numeracy is a foundation skill in the scientific process. So acquisition and ability to apply these skills is necessary for success in Science. Because of their ubiquitious use in science, graphical representation presents a particular set of issues within the topic of numeracy.

The references below cite studies which have investigated this issue in the UK.

Call for further evidence:

## Numeracy in science

Problem:

Less than 20% of 21-year-olds have greater than foundation level numeracy skills. (Basic Skills Agency Research for UK government)