Don’t Quote Me on That: Math Attitude Card Sort

A Carolina Essentials™ Activity

Total Time: 25-45 mins

Prep: 10-15 mins | Activity: 15-30 mins

Life Science, Physical Science


High School


It has often been said that mathematics is the language of science. Consequently, science teachers also play the role of mathematics teacher. Using mathematics and logic is a Science Practice common to all Advanced Placement® science courses and the NGSS Dimension 1 Practices. Your student’s preconceived notion about their skills can be as large a stumbling block as the lack of skill mastery itself. This short activity helps students identify their applied mathematics fears, strengths, and weaknesses.

Essential Question

What mathematical skills and fears do students have when applying math to science content?

Activity Objectives

  1. Determine math skills and weaknesses.
  2. Determine attitudes toward applied math.

Next Generation Science Standards* (NGSS)

PE HS-ESS1-4 Use mathematical or computational representations to predict the motion of orbiting objects in the solar system.

Science & Engineering Practices

Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking

Disciplinary Core Ideas

DCI: Idea

Crosscutting Concepts

Scale, Proportion, and Quantity



This activity has 42 cards—38 have quotes conveying attitudes about math and science, and 4 require a written response. Have students sort the cards into 2 piles: agree (this is me) and disagree (this is not me). Consider adding a neutral pile (this doesn’t apply to me at all). After students have sorted the cards, have them compile and summarize the quotes, then describe their attitudes, strengths, and weaknesses. Use the information to tailor your instruction involving math concepts.

Student Procedures

  1. Sort cards into piles:
    Agree (this is me)
    Disagree (this is not me)
  2. Compile and summarize the quotes.
  3. Describe math attitudes, strengths, weaknesses, and preconceptions.

Teacher Preparation and Tips

  1. You may also use a third category—neutral (this doesn’t apply to me at all).
  2. Write categories on the board.
  3. Discussion and journaling are ways students can reflect on the card sort results.
  4. Ask students what help they need from you. Ask what type of math instruction works for them.
  5. As a result, try grouping students with varying attitudes/ skills.
  6. Copy and laminate the cards for use with multiple classes.

Analysis & Discussion

Student answers will vary.


  1. My attitude toward using math in science is:


  2. My math strengths are:


  3. My math weaknesses are:

*Next Generation Science Standards® is a registered trademark of Achieve. Neither Achieve nor the lead states and partners that developed the Next Generation Science Standards were involved in the production of, and do not endorse, these products.

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