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The Open University

Basic science: understanding numbers

The Open University via OpenLearn

Overview

This free course, Basic science: understanding numbers, explains how you can use numbers to describe the natural world and make sense of everything from atoms to oceans.

Syllabus

  • Week1Week 1: Why does science need numbers?
  • Introduction
  • 1.1 Water, water everywhere
  • 1.2 Reflecting on numbers
  • 1.3 We’re all scientists now
  • 1.4 How do numbers help test scientific hypotheses?
  • 1.5 Is homeopathy science?
  • 1.6 SI units
  • 1.7 Scientific notation
  • 1.8 Big things, big numbers
  • 1.9 Small things, small numbers
  • 1.10 Week 1 quiz
  • 1.11 Week 1 summary
  • References
  • Acknowledgements
  • Week2Week 2: Using numbers for science
  • Introduction
  • 2.1 Calculators through the ages
  • 2.2 Calculating areas
  • 2.2.1 Area of the Greenland ice sheet
  • 2.3 Calculating volumes
  • 2.3.1 Volume of the Greenland ice sheet
  • 2.4 Density of water
  • 2.4.1 Density of the Greenland ice sheet
  • Why the Greenland ice sheet matters to us
  • 2.6 Week 2 quiz
  • 2.7 Week 2 summary
  • Acknowledgements
  • Week3Week 3: Learning to ‘talk the talk’
  • Introduction
  • 3.1 Absolute numbers don’t tell you everything
  • 3.2 Rounding
  • 3.2.1 Rounding to decimal places
  • 3.3 Can you eat sig figs?
  • 3.4 Fractions and Percentages
  • 3.5 Negative numbers
  • 3.6 Week 3 quiz
  • 3.7 Week 3 summary
  • Acknowledgements
  • Week4Week 4: Presenting numbers
  • Introduction
  • 4.1 How do people ‘get’ science numbers?
  • 4.1.1 Using graphs
  • 4.2 Averages
  • 4.2.1 Types of average
  • 4.2.2 Using averages
  • 4.3 Types of graph and drawing graphs
  • 4.3.1 Interpreting graphs
  • 4.4 Correlation, causation and coincidence
  • 4.5 Create and share your own graph
  • 4.6 End-of-course quiz
  • 4.7 Congratulations – you’re a scientist!
  • Acknowledgements

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