Math + Science = Success

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Science  03 Aug 2012:
Vol. 337, Issue 6094, pp. 504
DOI: 10.1126/science.337.6094.504-d

Is there any truth to the idea that biology students are interested in science yet are apprehensive about math? Llamas et al. analyzed 10 years of test results from undergraduate students enrolled in a plant physiology course in Spain. Only a basic level of mathematics knowledge appropriate to the students' background was required for answering the test questions. Questions requiring mathematical skills were defined as those that required calculations, interpretation of graphs, or analysis of a numeric table. Success on these questions was found to be 16% lower than success on corresponding nonmathematical questions. Moreover, mathematics-based questions were more often left blank, which suggests that the students themselves may doubt their ability to answer the question. Interestingly, success on mathematics questions ran in parallel with success in the course. These results highlight the need to integrate mathematical literacy into undergraduate biology courses to help students apply previously acquired skills to enhance their interest, and success, in biology.

Biosci. Educ. Electron. J. 19 (2012).

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