1.01 Basic numeracy for Science.

An understanding of mathematics is essential for studying science and technology courses, especially physics and engineering. Unfortunately some students rely on calculators to carry out even the most basic of mathematical tasks and as a result their mathematical skills tend to be poor. Although it is often convenient to use calculators, there are three important reasons to regularly perform manual calculations.

  1. You need to be able to check the answers produced by a calculator, even if it just means performing a rough manual estimate.
  2. You need to practice the mathematical skills you have learned, so that you can reliably produce correct answers.
  3. The logical techniques that you develop doing mathematical problems, are the same skills required to learn many scientific ideas.

This section revises basic numeracy skills, which are essential for many aspects in life, not just learning science. The section on mathematics for science will build on this material, to prepare students for commencing studies in science up to 'A' level or equivalent. (the only maths skills assumed for using this site, are the ability to add and subtract!)

The Mars Climate Orbiter, a NASA space probe costing approximately 250 million dollars, was destroyed in September 1999, when instead of orbiting Mars, it crashed into the planets atmosphere. The cause was later attributed to design engineers failing to correctly convert between imperial and metric units. A very basic mistake and a dramatic illustration of how costly it can be, to "get the numbers wrong"" in science and technology!