Teaching maths in a science classroom

“Why are we doing a maths lesson in science block?”

It was a pretty good question actually for the first lesson of the new school year. The simple answer is that I mostly teach science and have two maths classes.

Why am I teaching maths too? I wanted to teach maths as well as science because I see them as so interlinked as to be inseparable. In my prior life as a research scientist I used mathematical modelling to describe biological processes and I taught industrial scientists how to use maths to analyse their data and get a greater understanding from it. I also taught medical and vet students how to use mathematical ideas to predict suitable drug dosing regimens and how to understand from the data where the drug was going in the body and how long it was staying there. I am fascinated by how people “see” maths and the emotions they connect with it that sometimes stop them from being able to use it. It’s been really interesting going back to early secondary school maths and thinking about how children learn.

Teaching maths in a science classroom holds a lot of opportunities. First of all there is a lot more space and I can get the pupils moving around more easily. We use role play quite a bit in science lessons and it’ll be interesting to see how much of that I can incorporate into maths. This week when we’ve been working on directed numbers we’ve been walking back and forth in the middle of the room – one way to indicate positive and the other to indicate negative. Does it help? Not sure at the moment but I hope that it helps me when I start talking about vectors and scalars in physics lessons.

Having the space around the room means I have been able to put up whiteboard plastic roll in strategic locations so that pupils can work together on problems and we can see their working from further away in the room.

If anyone has other ideas of how to take most advantage of the space please do write in the comments.


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First impressions of a scientist teaching maths

Well I survived my first week teaching science and maths at secondary! Having trained in science teaching, taking a year 8 maths class has proven to be a fairly steep learning curve. In science there is so much more opportunity for active learning – practicals, group work etc. In maths I wanted to get away from the dreaded worksheet and I had one small success this week. I put up some A1 and A0 size whiteboard plastic sheets around the walls of the room so that I now have ten spaces for students to write so I can have ten groups of 3. It worked well in a lesson on negative integers and decimals as I got students into groups of three: one pupil wrote a number, the second pupil wrote another number next to it and then the third pupil wrote either < or > in between then they swapped roles. It was great to see them challenging each other as they started to use decimals rather than integers and then started to include negative integers and decimals.

I am thinking I might take the same approach in KS4 science and A level biology when we start to use standard form. I have found when teaching at university that students often find it difficult to appreciate relative magnitudes of numbers in standard form or when measurements are given with different prefixes. Also using whiteboards around the walls might help with rearranging formulae in GCSE physics when pupils are working together.

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