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Basic science: understanding numbers
Basic science: understanding numbers

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Week 1: Why does science need numbers?


Janet Sumner is your guide through this course. She is a Media Fellow at The Open University with a specialist interest in volcanoes. Janet will appear at the start of each week to tip you off about the highlights and challenges, to remind you what you’ve learned and to help you make the most of these four weeks of scientific discovery.

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Over the next four weeks you will look at how scientists:

  • communicate with each other
  • calculate area, volume and density and what this means for the Greenland ice sheet
  • present numbers using significant figures, decimal places, fractions and percentages
  • use different types of averages, draw and interpret graphs and find correlations in data.

This course is going to assume that you are new to studying science, so don’t worry if you haven’t studied science before.

The course starts off simply, but by Week 4 you will be calculating the density of the Greenland ice sheet! This week, you’ll be focusing on how numbers are used in science.

To test your knowledge you can try the end-of-week quizzes and there’s a final end-of-course quiz.

Before you start, The Open University would really appreciate a few minutes of your time to tell us about yourself and your expectations of the course. Your input will help to further improve the online learning experience. If you’d like to help, and if you haven't done so already, please fill in this optional survey [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

Advice for younger learners and homeschoolers

We would like to take this opportunity to remind you of the Conditions of use of Open University websites. To enrol on an OpenLearn course, you must be aged 13 or over. Adults can use their own OpenLearn account to supervise under 13s on the course, and assisting with the experiments.

You can read more in the OpenLearn FAQs.