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#ASEchat 137 How are you developing the numeracy of students?

ASEChat Summary

Monday 27 January 2014 with @cleverfiend 

With the promotion of maths and science (together with technology/engineering) as STEM subjects, no one can deny the links between science and maths and the importance of maths within science.   The question arose “How are you developing the numeracy of your students?” which was posed to ASEchat participants.

Cleverfiend (who was leading the discussion) opened by saying he got positive feedback from Ofsted for using mathematical terms and units when talking about lungs.  MrsRWood shared her numeracy placemat which met with universal approval from all taking part.  MrsRWood explained that it was extremely useful when having to explain what the mean is for the 100th time!  A publication was mentioned as a useful resource – “AKSIS Getting to Grips with Graphs” for those who are able to access a copy, perhaps at work.  ashl3ylaw said they are working with the maths department to create a similar resource  working with the maths department.  Others reinforced the importance of collaboration between maths and science departments.

No matter what discipline you teach there is no getting away from maths, ViciaScience pointed out that ratio and proportionality are the bedrock of some biology topics whilst others referred to statistics in A-level. DrDsScienceDays pointed out that orders of magnitude are useful all the way up to KS5.  Ange_K1 pointed out that lots of students could use a calculator but forgot to press = at the appropriate points so made mistakes, others saw that too in their lessons.

The topic changed to graphs and what level in maths would include the skills of choosing axes and labels etc for drawing a graph in science.  Hrogerson said that drawing a graph every lesson had helped improve grades for one group. 

NeedhamL56 referred to an app from @NPL  about fundamental physics constants.   TeacherChemist said “I like to get students to draw graphs by hand to appreciate scaling rather than relying on Excel”.  Ashl3ylaw gives the maths department some real data to use when they teach the skills in their lessons. A_Weatherall referred to the triangles that are used when teaching formulae saying he doesn’t like them because they hide the underlying maths, and other chat participants agreed.

ViciaScience suggested the Merlin plugin for biology stats for Excel available from

NeedhamL56 recommended the old National Strategy materials for working with graphs available at and Cleverfiend said a lot of the mini-booster materials (from the old SATS days) were very useful.

There was discussion over lines of best fit in science and maths, and whether they should be curves or straight lines.  Again it was agreed that maths and science departments should be talking to each other.

The final word comes from ashl3ylaw who says their solution is to have a physicist teaching maths and a mathematician teaching physics!