Mathematics: The Language of Science

Mathematics: The Language of Science

CRA Description : 
This activity will show students the types of mathematics that show up very frequently in college science classes. They will be asked to solve for variables involving systems of equations as well as manipulate exponential and logarithmic expressions. The students will also be asked to show mastery of graphing/sketching skills involving equations that contain variables and constants but not numbers. Finally, students will be asked to show skill in converting non-linear mathematical equations into linear graphs.
Algebra II
Key Concepts and Terms: 
Logarithms and Exponents
Sketching vs. Graphing
Slope and intercepts
Systems of Equations
Prior Knowledge: 
Students should be familiar with the concepts of high school algebra such as basic functions, systems of equations and graphing along with basic high school trigonometry including slopes of lines and rates of change.


Though it is for more advanced students, I appreciate the College Readiness Assignment "Mathematics:  The Language of Science."  I hear from science teachers frequently that students are enrolled in science courses without the necessary math skills to be successful.  I have no doubt that this is true.  This invites a discussion about the relevance of functions in modeling scientific data.  It also allows students to consider equations and graphs that have parameters other than 'm' and 'b,' challenging them to think about the effect of various values on a function.  This assignment could easily be modified to use with a wider range of students by focusing on linear and quadratic function families.

Submitted by elukasik (not verified) on

I had similar thoughts about using linear and quadratic functions. Thanks for sharing!

Submitted by Hillary Procknow on

I know what the students are being taught; I see their math assignments all the time, and yet when I ask them to graph the data, find the trends or explain the relationship between the variables, students paralyze and tell me they don't know how to do things. I have noticed is that they have a hard time translating and applying those skills in context, it is almost like I have to teach them "math in science" at first, and then they can make the connections.

Submitted by Sabina Maza (not verified) on

I like the depth of thinking on one hand but the lesson also teaches skills that I don't see as generally relevant.  As a former nuclear engineering technician and senior nuclear reactor operator I have used a lot of math, chemistry, physics, and engineering to do my job.  The linear transformations called for here were used to show us how to make exponential curves linear that involved radioactive decay but I never needed them to actually do my job.  There is a disconnect between math classes and science classes caused, in my opinion, by the lack of application problems in the math class.  If my experience with my math colleagues is typical of math teachers nationwide then I will also say that it does not help matters that most math teachers do not much care for science and are not science savvy.  I teach math in a cross disciplinary manner by pointing out useful science tools such as lines are y = b + mx which means in science and engineering that the final value equals the initial value plus the change.  The m is how fast, x is how long, amd mx is how much change. 

Submitted by linchm (not verified) on