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This content is taken from the National STEM Learning Centre's online course, Curriculum Design for Secondary School Science. Join the course to learn more.
3.6

## National STEM Learning Centre

Skip to 0 minutes and 8 seconds TEACHER 1: I think one of the main difficulties that students have with maths and science is their graph skills. Do you agree?

Skip to 0 minutes and 15 seconds TEACHER 2: I would absolutely agree the scales on the graphs are a really big problem now, because the maths department don’t teach scales on graphs anymore. So we give students graph paper and say, can you do this graph, put the scales on? And it’s carnage in the classroom.

Skip to 0 minutes and 33 seconds TEACHER 1: Yeah, I agree. It takes such a long time for them to just set up their axes of their graph, that we don’t really get any time to teach the scientific content.

Skip to 0 minutes and 41 seconds TEACHER 2: Absolutely. The other thing that I think is a problem is just the simple confidence to have a go at the maths. That they’ll see a maths question and their immediate response is, “I’m not any good at maths” and you have to get over that barrier first as well.

Skip to 0 minutes and 57 seconds TEACHER 1: Yeah, I agree. I think they also struggle with things like converting units. They think that they know how to do it, but then they have no process of checking their answer as to whether it’s realistic or not.

Skip to 1 minute and 10 seconds TEACHER 2: Absolutely. So they’ve got a fly, which is suddenly three metres long.

Skip to 1 minute and 13 seconds TEACHER 2: And then they go, but that’s the answer. That came up on my calculator.

Skip to 1 minute and 16 seconds TEACHER 1: Because they’re not used to maybe having examples that are contextualised. They are just used to just numbers.

# Difficulties with maths in science

In this section of the course we will consider the links between subjects when designing schemes of learning for science.

It’s well known among science teachers that students find it difficult to transfer skills between subjects. It’s not uncommon for a student to be able to solve a problem in the mathematics classroom, but when it comes to physics, faced with a similar question, they don’t know where to start. In the video above, two teachers share their experience of where students have difficulties applying maths in science.

Contributing factors to this include:

• The use of different terminology in science lessons to what learners have experienced in maths.
• Students may be asked to apply or use a mathematical skill before it has been taught or fully developed in maths lessons.
• Teachers may lack the knowledge, understanding or confidence to effectively deliver mathematically focused pedagogies.

We will look at how we can address each of these issues over the next three steps.

## Discuss

Which area of maths in science do your students struggle with?

Can you then comment on at least one other participant’s post, and share any activities you use already to try and build those concepts?