Key Differences Between Maths and SET

Stage: 3 and 4

There are some differences in the ways maths and SET approach particular topics/terminology.  It is helpful for all teachers to be aware of these.  This list isn't exhaustive, so discuss it with colleagues and see what else you can add to it.

Differences which can lead to confusion in students are:

  • In maths a line of best fit on a scattergraph will be a straight line at KS3 and 4; in SET there are various ways in which graphs are constructed, depending on the purpose for the data.
  • Differences in approaches to algebra: e.g. balance method in mathematics vs formula triangles in science.
  • 'Investigation' means different things in different departments.
  • 'Evaluation', 'Proof' have specific mathematical meanings.
  • 'Weight' is often mis-used in maths as being synonymous with 'mass'.
  • Notation for symbols can be confusing to students: in maths straight line graphs are often y-against-x; students often do not make the link to straight line graphs with other variable names.
  • Maths often uses neat, tidy and idealised diagrams, data and numbers; SET often makes use of real, noisy data and numbers.
  • DT has specific requirements for drawings, which are not observed in maths.
  • Use of mathematical symbols is particularly important for older students who are planning on studying mathematics or physics at university.
    • $\approx$ means 'approximately equal to' (safe to use)
    • $\therefore$ means 'Therefore'
    • $\sim$ means many things, but most basically means 'is the same order of magnitude as'
    • $\equiv$ means 'equal by definition'
    • $\Rightarrow$ is the implication symbol (use carefully or avoid if unsure)