Counting the ways: the benefits of science communication for maths

Counting the ways: the benefits of science communication for maths

Maths has a reputation for being abstract and challenging to understand. However, effective science communication can foster an appreciation for the practical applications of mathematics in scientific – and all – endeavours.

Mathematics is the foundation of science. For example, physics is applied maths, chemistry is applied physics, and so on. As written in the Handbook of Mathematical Science Communication, ‘Mathematics is everywhere and thus, it has become more crucial than ever to understand its implications as well as the basic principles behind it.’

While many people think maths is too hard or intimidating, we all use mathematics regularly in our everyday lives. Communication of mathematics, such as statistics and data in visual representations, are in the news every day, whether about COVID-19, the financial market or the cost of living. But beyond the simple pie chart, communication of numbers can become quite tricky. Not everyone can read a line of second-order partial differentials (or even know what it is!).

Effective communication of mathematics is essential for the growth of the field, especially for encouraging diversity and increasing inclusivity. Increased science communication efforts in mathematics could inspire more young women to pursue STEM careers.

Innovative ways of communicating maths can break down barriers, empower individuals, and create a more numerically literate and informed society.

How to communicate numerical concepts

Multimodal communication is a method that combines 2 different communication techniques to convey a message more effectively. The 5 main communication techniques are visual, linguistic, aural, spatial, and gestural. Effective science communication, including the communication of mathematics, uses a different combination of these methods. Combining communication techniques can engage more diverse learners and facilitate more effective memory retention.

A great example of this is some of Adam Spencer’s maths communication. In his Number Newsletter, he almost always has an image or graphic to accompany his text. His writing also uses comedy and a casual tone to convey numerical ideas in a fun and engaging way, which helps to make the mathematical concepts less intimidating.

Additionally, the maths that he chooses to write about is relevant in an incredibly clear way. In his 13th newsletter, he writes about the history of the number 13 and related fun facts. Linking numerical concepts to real-world examples can contextualise information, and storytelling can make abstract ideas more engaging.

The communication of numbers should not just be about mathematical precision. It should also make the language of mathematics accessible, enjoyable, engaging and inclusive.


Date Posted:

February 23, 2024