8th September 2000 at 01:00
MATHS SKILLS FOR ADVANCED SCIENCES. By Ken Price. Oxford University Press pound;7.50

This book is aimed at students who obtained a B or lower in GCSE mathematics. It covers a broad spectrum that includes biology, chemistry and physics. I particularly like the early sections on scientific notation, indices and units with a nice look at dimensional analysis.

These are the basics that students have most difficulty with when working with simple fractions or dealing with, say, equilibrium constants and their associated units. The section on accuracy of data including significant figures is useful, as is the chapter on uncertainty and error analysis.

The section on graphs s disappointing - I would have liked a more detailed explanation of lines of best fit; another area of difficulty. The rest of the book is quite specific in its content, like Chi-squared tests, or root mean square speeds or mathematical concepts like angle relationships or sine or cosine curves.

The contents pages are also useful, having a tick reference for their "usefulness" in terms of biology, chemistry, physics or technology. Each section has "questions to try" that help clarify the work covered and there are answers at the end. This book should help students to be less frightened of numbers.

Noel Dickson is head of science at Whitgift School, Croydon

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