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Dimension 1: Practices

Using mathematics and computational thinking

In both science and engineering, mathematics and computation are fundamental tools for representing physical variables and their relationships. They are used for a range of tasks such as constructing simulations; statistically analyzing data; and recognizing, expressing, and applying quantitative relationships.

Scientific, mathematical, and computational techniques play essential roles in representing physical variables and understanding their interactions. These tools are immensely valuable for many purposes, such as constructing simulations, analyzing data statistically, recognizing patterns, expressing numbers and relationships quantitatively, predicting physical systems' behaviors, and assessing the worth of correlations. Statistical methods are integral to this work



Mathematical and computational systems are essential in engineering design, from structural simulations to determine how a structure will handle the expected stresses of use and if it can be completed within budget, to tests for development and improvement of the design. As illustrated by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine's Framework for K-12 Science (2012), understanding these mathematical and computational processes is vital to successful engineering.

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) recognize and emphasize the importance of three main dimensions for learning science. These dimensions are essential components in forming each standard—or performance expectation. When taken together, they allow students a chance to gain a more cohesive understanding of science concepts as they progress through their courses.

Three Dimensions of Science Learning

​It is important to understand how scientists work in order to make sense of the world around us. The scientific process is a methodical and logical approach to discovering how things in the universe work. It is the foundation upon which all scientific knowledge is built.

The scientific process begins with a question or problem that scientists want to solve. They then gather data and observations about the problem. This data is used to form a hypothesis, which is a proposed explanation for the problem. The hypothesis is then tested through experimentation. If the results of the experiment support the hypothesis, then it becomes a theory. If the results of the experiment do not support the hypothesis, then the hypothesis is rejected and a new hypothesis is formed. This process is repeated until a theory is supported by a large body of evidence.

The scientific process is not always linear. Scientists may go backand revise their understanding due to new evidence or data. The process generally starts with making an observation or asking a question, followed by formulating a hypothesis, conducting experiments and tests to collect data, analyzing the data, and then either accepting or rejecting the hypothesis. If the hypothesis is accepted, scientists create a conclusion. This conclusion is then put out for peer review or further discussion before it is accepted as scientific fact.

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