View Full Version : Math for Science? (And Dyscalculia)

Orianna2000

11-07-2016, 07:47 PM

First question: What types of math would be taught to a student of life sciences at university? If it matters, the setting is another world, approximately 1930s or 1940s level of technology.

The student in question has dyscalculia, so she struggles with math and numbers, along with spatial orientation. A professor was secretly tutoring her in algebra and whatever other math classes she had. But now she's declared her field of study--life sciences--so I figured she wouldn't have to take general math classes anymore, only those relevant to science. I'm thinking statistics, for one. But I can't think of any others, and oddly, Google is proving less than helpful.

Second question: Would any of the "science maths" be easier for someone with dyscalculia? She's going to have the professor's support for another year or so, but then he's going to disappear and she's going to have to finish her doctorate on her own, without his help. I'll probably find someone else to help her, but I'm wondering how much additional math she might have to deal with in those later years of university. If it makes a difference, she'll narrow her field of study and get her doctorate in biology.

From what I recall at my university, life sciences students took a full year of calculus in first year and one term of statistics (second year?). A quick look at the academic calendar (http://www.queensu.ca/artsci/sites/default/files/degree_plans_certificates_course_lists.pdf) seems to supports this. They also had to take physics in first year, which I imagine would be difficult for someone with dyscalculia.

Mark HJ

11-07-2016, 08:36 PM

It would depend on the university/department. When I was an undergrad, the chemistry department allowed for those taking chemistry to choose with or without maths. I don't know what the 'without' crowd actually did, but I think they cut down on a lot of the physical chemistry side which tends to be more demanding on the maths. Physics, on the other hand, had to have maths through to their second year. Those of us doing chemistry/physics combo degrees took additional maths in the third year.

As for dyscalculia - so far as I am aware, I do not have it, but I struggle massively with arithmetic, and I mean really trivial stuff. Science/engineering maths was fine, and I could design algorithms for doing arithmetic, it is just the business of combining numbers that is a problem.

Orianna2000

11-07-2016, 08:39 PM

Calculus and statistics, thanks!

Why would physics be hard for someone with dyscalculia? Just curious. I have dyscalculia--never attended college, but in school, I did fairly well in science classes, but always got the lowest grades in math. I do have trouble with sewing sometimes, because I can't visualize how to assemble the pattern pieces. It makes it hard when the directions are faulty and I have to guide a student through the assembly myself.

Myrealana

11-07-2016, 08:48 PM

My mother has dyscalculia.

She is also a teacher who ran her district's "Math Lab" for elementary and middle school students. She's very good at teaching kids who are struggling with basic math concepts at the elementary level, in part because she has had to learn how to do math in a completely different way.

I can say, she gets physics concepts as well as my dad (Physics teacher) or me. She can't do the math, though. Even as I got to more advanced physics in high school, let alone in college, I might as well have been speaking Greek for all she understood of it.

The concepts of physics, the reasoning behind it and the general understanding she can grasp, but once you're beyond the conceptual, physics, especially at the college level, is dependent on calculus.

Life science is less math-dependent, though she would need algebra and some statistics to go very far.

eskay

11-07-2016, 09:54 PM

In our timeline, statistics as a discipline is pretty modern, compared to other subfields of mathematics. I'm not sure biology students in the 30s-40s were taking it as a matter of course.

Orianna2000

11-07-2016, 10:23 PM

I have some leeway, since they're a colony. They lost much of their technology (and memories of Earth) in the early years of colonization, whether deliberately or through circumstances, but some things would've stayed with them. I'm thinking advanced math concepts probably weren't something they lost. Then again, I never found a way to work the idea that they're a colony into the story, so readers won't know that. Hmm.

cornflake

11-07-2016, 10:28 PM

Calculus and statistics, thanks!

Why would physics be hard for someone with dyscalculia? Just curious. I have dyscalculia--never attended college, but in school, I did fairly well in science classes, but always got the lowest grades in math. I do have trouble with sewing sometimes, because I can't visualize how to assemble the pattern pieces. It makes it hard when the directions are faulty and I have to guide a student through the assembly myself.

Physics has tons of maths -- converting things to moles, joules, etc., etc., and back, figuring out the mass, acceleration of an object, is all math, and math where you have to be able to take one basic equation and use it with different variables either filled in or missing, depending on what you've got and what you want, and notice something that's in, say, meters has to end up in cubed meters... It's not that hard, math-wise, but I'd guess for someone with an issue it could be much harder.

Mrs-Q

11-07-2016, 10:34 PM

I have dyscalcula but not spatial problems. Geometry and programming-type math is much easier. My main challenge is transposing and misreading numbers, so I can't note to myself where I am in a problem. I do data analysis for work, though. Spreadsheets make it much easier. I'm maybe slower than if I did not have it, but not everyone has the skills I do so it washes.

If they use radiation therapy, MRIs, and modern physical therapy, they will have to take geometry, trig, calculus, and statistics. So much of modern life is rooted in calculus, and calculus has been around for a while. It'd be a pretty huge knock to your technology level if they lost it.

dinky_dau

11-07-2016, 11:02 PM

Such students can generally pass Algebra I & II, (probably with low GPA) and then statistics and logic.

(Some logic courses count as math electives).

Not physics or calculus.

I also believe that the content of college-level courses was structured different if you go back as long ago as the 30s;

in the US, college standards themselves were still evolving. Even the concept of co-ed colleges was still just underway.

Why would physics be hard for someone with dyscalculia? Just curious. I have dyscalculia--never attended college, but in school, I did fairly well in science classes, but always got the lowest grades in math. I do have trouble with sewing sometimes, because I can't visualize how to assemble the pattern pieces. It makes it hard when the directions are faulty and I have to guide a student through the assembly myself.

As mentioned above, physics involves quite a bit of math beyond the basic concepts. In fact, anything beyond rather basic physics involves calculus. At my university there was an "easy" physics class that the life science students were allowed to take that did not use calculus, I believe, though there's only so much you can do with that. (My father is of the opinion that teaching physics without calculus is a complete waste of time, but anyway...)

Also, you mention visualization problems. Physics tests can have lots of word problems where you'll have to draw a diagram of what's going on, think in 3D...I suspect that would be tough?

However, you can just ignore the whole physics issue. There may well be life science programs that don't require it, and this is set in another world, so... It wouldn't bother me as a reader if she never had to take physics.

Orianna2000

11-08-2016, 02:49 AM

Okay, so she'll take entry-level physics (not much worse than high-school level) and then won't have to take advanced physics because she'll opt into the "life sciences" and from there to biology.

It seems that my high school correspondence classes were very . . . shall we say, elementary? I didn't have physics, other than (maybe) a few chapters in a science textbook. It was mostly a rehash of what I'd learned in junior high. I guess I lucked out in that respect, as I would've done poorly if there was advanced math involved. For that matter, I didn't have to do any sort of advanced math, either. I sort of feel cheated, except I'm grateful, because I would've flunked out.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 4.2.5 Copyright © 2019 vBulletin Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved.