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How to Use Mathematics and Logical Routines

Dee Dee Whitaker
Product Content Specialist

January 2017

It’s often been said that mathematics is the language of science. As a science teacher, you’ll occasionally find yourself in the role of math teacher. Using mathematics and logic is a science practice common to all AP® science courses.

How do you determine which math skills your students have or lack? A comprehensive mathematic skills pretest is always a good start early in an AP® science course, but it doesn’t help identify student attitudes, preconceptions, or fears toward math. Students’ preconceived notions about their skills can be as large a stumbling block as a lack of skill mastery itself. 

You can shed light on your students’ aptitude and attitude toward mathematics with these activities.


Science Journaling: “Two Views: How Much Math Do Scientists Need?” 

Scientists don’t always agree. We tell students that the power of science hinges on open discussion—in this case, the discussion of necessary mathematics skills for scientists. In August 2013, the American Mathematical Society reprinted 2 essays expressing opposing opinions on the topic. The authors are Harvard biologist E. O. Wilson and Berkeley mathematician Edward Frenkel.

Give your AP® science students the articles to read and summarize. An insightful science journal prompt may be:

Where do you fall on the spectrum of views presented in the article? How would you rate your own math skills? 

Either read the journal entries to assess your students’ abilities and fears or have a class discussion.

Card Sorting Activity: Don’t Quote Me on That!

A card sorting activity is a fun way to identify your students’ attitudes and preconceptions. This activity has 42 cards—38 are quotes conveying attitudes about math and science, and 4 require a written response. Have students sort the cards into 2 piles: agree (this is me) and disagree (this is not me). Consider adding a neutral pile (this doesn’t apply to me at all).

After students have sorted the cards, have them compile and summarize the quotes, then describe their attitudes, strengths, and weaknesses. Use the information to tailor your instruction involving math concepts.

Time to practice and refine

These featured kits engage students in data collection, data visualization, analysis, and interpretation, giving them the opportunity and time to practice and refine their math skills.



AP® is a trademark registered and/or owned by the College Board, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse, these products.

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