Colleen Young x 2 = #hcsmca: Maths and Health

By @ColleenYoung and @colleen_young

(@colleenyoung’s post: Colleen Young x2 = #hcsmca: Maths and health)

Also published on HealthWorks Collective



@ColleenYoung: On Twitter a mere underscore differentiates our identities. Add an underscore to my Twitter handle @ColleenYoung and you will meet @colleen_young  an Online Community Strategist; Engagement Specialist; Speaker; Founder ; Board Advisor ; Director of Community , Stanford . Two such similar Twitter handles means I sometimes get some rather interesting tweets about health care which I enjoy reading; I also reroute the misdirected tweets to the other Colleen!

Being pulled into Colleen’s world of health, community and #hcsmca got me thinking about how our worlds intersect and we thought we really ought to join forces!

There’s more reason to unite Mathematics and health than to separate them. As Dean Schlicter wrote “Go down deep enough into anything and you will find Mathematics. ” Let it be so for Mathematics and health. A quick search discovers a set of 5 lessons using biomedical science to study math and extend the maths curriculum at the secondary level (ages 11-16). The lessons “show how maths underpins cutting edge biomedical research. They also introduce students to important ethical issues.” (1)
Since connecting with Colleen (of #hcsmca-fame) I have been keen to find further resources linking Maths and Health related subjects; many of the students at my school go on to study Medicine in Further Education. You will find some excellent resources at the end of this post.


@colleen_young: Understanding numeracy is integral to improving health literacy. As Russell Rothman et al. explain in their Perspective: The Role of Numeracy in Health Care, many people with adequate reading ability have poor numeracy skills.

Many health-related tasks, such as reading food labels, refilling prescriptions, measuring medications, interpreting blood sugars or other clinical data, and understanding health risks, rely on numeracy.These tasks often require patients to deduce which mathematical skills to use and then to use these in multi-step fashion. Patients who had difficulty learning math skills during their primary education may now be too intimidated or simply unable to call upon these skills. For patients with chronic illness that rely on self-management to safely and efficaciously self-administer treatments this is particularly relevant and may place patients who lack adequate numeracy skills at increased risk for poor health outcomes. Numeracy may be a unique explanatory factor for adverse outcomes beyond the explanations provided by overall literacy.” [2]

Since October is health literacy month and by extension health numeracy, we decided to increase the Colleen factor to the power of 2 on #hcsmca this week. Join us on October 21 at 1pm ET and 6pm BT for a discussion on health, numeracy and maths.

Twitter chatColleen Young x2

  • T1: What numeracy skills are increasingly being required of patients and family caregivers?  
  • T2a: What actions/projects/solutions have you seen in health and education to improve the public’s health numeracy level? Examples
    T2b: Can social media help improve health numeracy? How? 
  • T3: Who on Twitter has brought you into their world and led to thinking about your area of interest differently? How?


[1] Motivate, Millennium Mathematics Project, Cambridge University

[2] Rothman R, Montori V, Cherrington A, and Pignone M. Perspective: The Role of Numeracy in Health Care. Journal of Health Commun. 2008 Sep; 13(6): 583–595.

Resources & Reading

Motivate - Maths & Our Health, supported by The Wellcome Trust

Motivate – Maths & Our Health, supported by The Wellcome Trust

From Motivate – Maths and our Health, five resource packs based on topical issues in biomedical science which support and extend the maths curriculum at secondary level (11-16 year-olds).

Note the link from Motivate to Plus Magazine’s Do you know what’s good for you? which is a series of articles, podcasts and interviews aimed at older students, teachers and general readers for a project funded by the Wellcome Trust exploring the role of mathematics and statistics in the biomedical sciences.

Nrich - Vaccination Game

Nrich – Vaccination Game

From Nrich we have STEMNrich where you will find a variety of resources, you could investigate epidemics for example or study the Influenza Virus and how it spreads. There are more resources on Disease Dynamics here, looking at substitution into formulae with Year 7 (UK age 11-12) vaccination gameI used the formula given in the Vaccination Game resource, it worked really well to be able to talk to them about the real use of a formula.

Skills for Health Resources

Skills for Health Resources includes some questions testing basic numeracy which would be suitable for younger students. (Look under Using the tools).

From Hull University for nursing students – Maths for Healthcare Professionals

Cardiff University – Maths Support Service – Maths for Health Sciences

Maths in Health Sciences – recommended resources from The University of Brighton

Further Reading

5 a day…and finally – I cannot resist mentioning here the very aptly named 5-a-day from Mr Corbett which I have telling my students for some time now is very good for their Maths health!

These resources do include basic numeracy questions as well as more advanced Mathematics questions.

One comment on “Colleen Young x 2 = #hcsmca: Maths and Health

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