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Good News For Math Students August 8, 2007

Posted by Mrs Weird Scientist in Easy As Pie, Human Body, Psychology and Behavior.

MathEver wondered if the courses you’re taking now will help you perform better when you go to university? A joint study led by Robert Tai of the University of Virginia and Philip Sadler of Harvard University recently checked this out. The study found that high school coursework in one of the sciences did not predict better performance in other science courses. Hang on though because there is one exception. Gulp. It’s mathematics! The students who received intensive mathematics education did significantly better in biology, chemistry and physics courses at university. The study was funded by the National Science Foundation and the results were published in the journal Science.

Physics First – Not Anymore

One educational movement called Physics First has been arguing that physics underlies biology and chemistry. Therefore, they want the traditional order of high school sciences – biology, chemistry and then physics – to basically be reversed. This recent study by Sadler and Tai, however, conflicts with the Physics First movement by suggesting that it’s math – not physics – that can benefit students at the university level.

Obvious Stuff

As expected, students who took a specific science course in high school – chemistry, for example – did better in university level chemistry. But taking chemistry didn’t boost up marks in other science subjects such as physics or biology. It was only when mathematics was studied at the high school level that biology, chemistry and physics performances were all boosted at the university level. Also, those students who completed the most coursework in high school mathematics fared the best in science courses taken at university.

Good Or Bad News?

Stressed OutIt’s good, regardless of whether you’re a fan of math! Students who adore math can rejoice at the study findings. You can consider it a bonus that math in high school offers an advantage in university level science courses. For the rest of the population, which probably includes those who tolerate math and those who despise it, you’ll still have to struggle your way through. Fortunately, you’ll experience greater success in university science courses, some of which can be very challenging!

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