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The language of mathematics in science

Researchers: Marianne Cutler

By Nuffield Foundation

Project overview

This project was to develop guidance and professional development materials to support the teaching and assessment of mathematical skills relevant for science GCSEs.

The Language of Mathematics in Science: A Guide for Teachers of 11-16 Science provides an overview of relevant ideas in secondary school mathematics and where they are used in science. It aims to clarify terminology and indicate where there may be problems in student understanding. The publication includes explanations of key ideas and terminology in mathematics, guidance about good practice in applying mathematical ideas in science, along with a glossary of terms.

The development of the materials has involved extensive input from various panels of educators and teachers in science and mathematics. The ASE also worked closely with the leading examination awarding bodies AQA, Edexcel, Eduqas and OCR, which have endorsed the guidance.

The guidance was developed in response to concerns of science teachers that there is not a good level of understanding of the mathematical aspects of science among students. Confusion may be caused, for instance, when mathematics and science teachers use different terminology or approaches when explaining ideas. 

A second publication, ‘The Language of Mathematics in Science: Teaching Approaches’, uses teachers’ accounts to outline how science and mathematics departments have worked together and to illustrate different approaches to teaching mathematical terms and applications. It gives examples of how children respond to different learning activities intended to promote understanding of mathematics within a science context.

It is hoped that these two publications will provide valuable support to science teachers, and will promote good practice in the teaching and assessment of the mathematics aspects of 11-16 science.

Latest on this project


  • Marianne Cutler
    Association for Science Education

  • Cheryl Lloyd
    Programme Head, Education
    Nuffield Foundation
  • Director, Education
    Nuffield Foundation
By Nuffield Foundation

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