Maths Skills For Science Lessons

After taking part in a recent online CPD trial with the Yorkshire and Humber Science Learning Centre, I’ve been trying to find ways to help my students use their maths skills in a science context. (And no, this wasn’t prompted by the recent SCORE report.) As we discussed during the course (and yes, I want to blog about it in more detail) the issue isn’t always that they don’t have the skills – it’s that they don’t use them. Sometimes it’s about language differences (positive correlation vs directly proportional, for example) and sometimes it’s just some kind of mental block. I’m trying a few different things:

  • providing science formula sheets to Maths to use for practice in lessons
  • producing data sets that they can use in Maths lessons
  • display work highlighting similarities and differences between science and maths vocabulary

But the focus for the blog post is something different. I’ve produced (but not yet finished trialling) a booklet for students to use and refer to in Science lessons. It covers a few areas identified by students and colleagues as causing problems. Each page includes an explanation, worked examples, hints and tips, possible applications and practice exercises. I’m making it available here in this untested state for comments, suggestions and improvements; click on the image for the pdf.

To Come (Hopefully)

  1. Corrected version if (when?) you find problems with it, with included pages for write-on answers/notes
  2. Markscheme/answer booklet
  3. Accompanying A4 display pages with extracts
  4. Additional pages if sufficient (polite) demand

I’d really love some feedback on this, everyone – please comment with improvements and suggestions.

11 thoughts on “Maths Skills For Science Lessons”

  1. I think one test is to try this out on a maths teacher to see their reaction to it. Personally I like the approachable style but of course what matters is making sure it is all correct.

    1. I will be getting maths teachers comments on it at work, thanks for the thought. I think it would be really useful for *all* departments to consider more carefully what maths skills are needed and work with specialist teachers to find better delivery methods.

  2. Ask the students. I would like to hear their opinion of whether they think they have difficulties applying their mathematical knowledge in science lessons. What are the challenges from their perspective? You should be applauded for your efforts to tackle this issue. More online Cpd programmes to raise teacher awareness?

    1. I put the list together based on ideas from students (middle year 10 group), linked both to their competence and their competence. I was surprised that unit conversions were such n issue, but we’ll see how it goes.

  3. It’s great to see that these resources are the outcome of our CPD. Did you make use of the resources the other teachers posted during the CPD, eg Helen’s and Oli’s powerpoints, in writing yours – they both provided good ways of pointing out maths skills to students? Also have you had a chance yet to have a look at the cre8ate maths resources on the National STEM Centre e-Library? ( I think these provide something of what you want/need in terms of putting maths skills into context.

    I agree with the people who’ve commented above that it would be interesting to know what maths teachers and your students think of the resources you’re writing. It seems clear that maths teachers do explain things in different ways from science teachers, so do they recognise what you’re doing here, or think that it is inconsistent with their teaching methods?

    However, one thing we discussed during the CPD sessions was that maths teachers may not always teach these things differently, but just teach them at a different time from when we need them, so we assume a level of knowledge in our students which they simply don’t have. Again, Oli and Sarah might be able to help here since they were looking at what happens when.

    Finally, I’m interested to know whether you’re going to blog about the online CPD experience in general. We’re just planning our next version of Teaching Challenging Topics, so it’d be interesting to hear any suggestions you have.

    Emily Perry. Science Learning Centre Yorkshire and Humber (

    1. In reverse order, yes I do plan a more general blog post, which will be split between online cpd thoughts and some reflection on the maths side of things. I’ve used notes I made during the sessions, but I do want to look again at the resources from colleagues on the course. I focused less on methods for these because I wanted something that students could use independently, and keep as a reference. Once I’ve moved past version 1.0 I’ll upload it (and an editable version) to the hub, too.

      Thanks for the course, I’ll try to get the blog post up so you can wave it at people if useful.

  4. I would use these.
    They might need a bit of tweaking. For instance, “Rearrange these formulae to make x (or whatever) the subject of the equation.”
    I think that the type of pupil who would need this type of maths help may need this sort of thing spelling out.

  5. These look fab at first glance, will try them with some of my students in the next week and let you know what they think. Have also shared with a colleague who was very excited about how useful they looked.

  6. On graphs in science: apply the “along the corridor and up the stairs” rule. Going into the experiment, you set the independent variable.Coming out of the experiment, you measure the dependent variable. So what goes in is “along the corridor” – the x axis, and what comes out is “up the stairs” – the y axis.

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