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'Big and Small Numbers in Biology' printed from http://nrich.maths.org/
this problem ?
Practice with the use of numbers is a crucial biological skill.
will allow you to practice these skills whilst
developing awareness of orders of magnitude in scientific
There are several parts to this question. The individual pieces
could be used as starters or filler activities for students who
finish classwork early. Enthusiastic students might work through
them in their own time. Since there is no absolutely 'correct'
answer to many of these questions, they might productively be used
for discussion: students create their own answers and then explain
them to the rest of the class. Does the class agree? Disagree? Is
there an obvious best 'collective' answer?
- What assumptions will you need to make in this question?
- How accurate do you think you answer is?
- What order of magnitude checks could you make to test that your
answer is sensible?
Can students make up similar questions? Can they put any upper or
lower bounds on the numbers?
Students might struggle with the 'open' nature of the questions. To
begin, they might like to read the
Student Guide to Getting Started with rich tasks