Maths for science

Close up of micro-pipette use

A survival pack for level 3 science students would need to contain material on proportional parts (‘if 15 oranges cost ¬£1.50, how much should 8 oranges cost?’), standard form, metric units, conversions between metric units, derived units (e.g. density or speed distance and time) and substituting into simple formulas (e.g. density of ball bearing calculated from diameter of the bearing measured with a micrometer and the mass as found using a top-pan balance). Basic coverage of averages (measure the ball bearing several times using different diameters and take the mean, noting the range).

Graph work would need to warn students of the various different types of graph in circulation – and the fact that some Biology teachers can display stress symptoms if you plot axes in a way they don’t like. Seriously, interpreting cardiac pressure traces is a common exam question. I’d probably throw in scatter diagrams, line of best fit, and maybe the straight line graph as a way of getting a formula for the line of best fit.

The proportional parts would be applied to very simple molar mass calculations such as: roughly how many moles of Sodium Chloride are there in 5g of table salt? (5g divided by (35.45 + 22.99)).

Note added 11th Jan: our local Chemist has added rates of change and solving linear equations to the list. He is happy with rates of change found graphically using mirrors or glass rods to find the tangent. Rates of change for curved graphs is a natural extension to the straight line graph so this should be OK. I managed to convince my colleague that logs and exponential functions were probably a bit hard for this introductory package.

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