Physics for Non-Specialists Online - Numeracy in Physics

02 July 2022
09:30 - 13:00

They can't do the maths! How to teach numeracy in physics. This is the final module in the academic year 21-22 for non-specialist physics teachers

Event Type: 
Online event
11-19 Teachers
Early Career Teachers

In theory, we shouldn’t need to run this course. Algebra and graphs are taught in-depth in the maths. However many students fail to transfer conceptual understanding from their maths classroom to your science one. 

Many students struggle with the calculations they have to do in physics. There are a multitude of reasons for this. In these sessions, we will explore the most common ones and how we might rectify them. Using formula triangles can give a quick fix for some students, but fail to develop the conceptual understanding to really improve understanding. So they should be used as a last resort.

Students usually can easily see that 6 = 2x3 so 3= 6/2 and 2 = 6/3  but can struggle when numbers are replaced with letters. They can see that changing the subject of a statement is telling us the same thing. Hence: The cat sat on the mat is the same as; the mat is where the cat sat - only the subject has changed.  When we rearrange an equation all we are doing is changing the subject. 

The sessions will explore how formulae tell stories and what those stories are. We will see why teaching a=F/m can lead to better understanding than F=ma and how this helps in the understanding of I=V/R.
Once we can see patterns in the way formulae work. For example ratios such as a=F/m or I=V/R or accumulations such as  E=VIt or s=vt then students realise there are only a few types of stories to understand. When they understand the stories, they no longer have to remember the formulae and it all starts to make sense.
We will also explore ways to interpret graphs by looking at graphical representations of everyday events. What might graphs of teacher stressiness versus class noise look like? What do the gradient and intercept represent? Once students can see the stories that graphs tell in contexts they understand we can move on to more conceptually challenging examples.

About Physics for Non-Specialists modules

This course comprises a series of modules and aims to support non-specialist, early career and trainee teachers with physics teaching to Key Stage 4. It will be delivered by experienced trainers from Physics Partners working in partnership with the ASE.

Each module is a 3-hour Saturday session, and will focus on one topic. The overarching aim is to improve participants’ confidence in teaching physics. 

The course will cover common physics misconceptions, pedagogical content knowledge and a structured approach to tackling GCSE level examination questions.  Novel teaching approaches will be also introduced as well as relevant online resources, including the ASE's Concept Cartoons, a valuable learning resource used by many teachers in physics lessons, which are available at discounted rates for course delegates.

Each Saturday programme will comprise:

• 09:30 - 10:30 1st hour of online course

• 10:30 - 10:45 15 minute break

• 10:45 to 11:45 2nd hour of online course

• 11:45 to 12:00 15 minute break

• 12:00 to 13:00 final hour of online course

Please note that by booking a place, you agree to the ASE sharing your information with Physics Partners

For queries please email

About the course presenter

Neil Atkin has taught and continues to teach physics for over 30 years, but still feels he has a lot to learn! He has also been a maths teacher and understands the disjunction between the way science and maths teachers cover numeracy and the confusion this can cause for our students.

Neil has delivered CPD to thousands of teachers as a trainer with the IoP and currently Physics Partners. His sessions are always very interactive, thought-provoking and challenging.