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Count on These Science Stories to Engage Your Students

By Carole Hayward

Posted on 2014-07-17

51casestudies“Our students should be able to at least reason quantitatively: to read and interpret data, graphs, and statistics. They should be astute enough to demand to see the evidence when some politician claims that a new drug cures cancer, job numbers are up, our carbon footprint is too big, the president’s budget is the highest ever, and the world is coming to an end on December 21….But if this is a worthy ideal, how do we achieve numerical nirvana?”
Authors Clyde Freeman Herreid, Nancy A. Schiller, and Ky F. Herreid make the case in Science Stories You Can Count On: 51 Case Studies with Quantitative Reasoning in Biology that introductory biology is an ideal place to start. Teaching biology using real stories with quantitative reasoning skills enmeshed in the story line is a powerful and logical way to teach the subject and to show its relevance to the lives of future citizens regardless of whether they are science specialists or laypeople. “Biology is well suited for mathematical description, from the perfect geometry of viruses, to equations that describe the flux of ions across cellular membranes, to computationally intensive models for protein folding.”
The authors also contend: All students need some mathematics. They receive the fundamentals in their K-12 education. Once they are in higher education, the kind and extent of their quantitative instruction depends on their career plans. It is especially important that all students, regardless of their major, leave school knowing what questions to ask when they see data rolled out. One way to approach this is to use active learning, such as case study teaching.
The case studies presented in the book are divided into 12 sections. Each case study presents an abstract, learning objectives, quantitative reasoning skills/concepts, the case study itself, questions, and links to a web version.
The case studies delve into topics that your students will find relevant, dealing with items and questions they face in their daily lives. Here’s a sampling from each section:
The Scientific Method

  • Cell Phone Use and Cancer
  • Is High-Fructose Corn Syrup Bad for the Apple Industry?

Chemistry of Life

The Cell

  • Wrestling With Weight Loss: The Dangers of a Weight-Loss Drug
  • Nanobacteria: Are They or Aren’t They Alive?


  • Elvis Meltdown! Microbiology Concepts of Culture, Growth, and Metabolism
  • Resistance Is Futile…or Is It? The Immunity System and HIV Infection


  • In Sickness and in Health: A Trip to the Genetic Counselor
  • The Case of Desiree’s Baby: The Genetics and Evolution of Human Skin Color

Molecular Biology

  • The Case of the Druid Dracula
  • Which Little Piggy Went to Market? Bioinformatics and Meat Science


  • As the Worm Turns: Speciation and the Maggot Fly
  • Super Bug: Antibiotics and Evolution

Plant Form and Function

  • I’m Looking Over a White-Striped Clover: A Case of Natural Selection
  • Tougher Plants: Beating Stress by Protecting Photosynthesis in Genetically Modified Plants

Animal Form and Function

  • Girl Pulled Alive From Ruins, 15 Days After Earthquake
  • The Hunger Pains: Ghrelin, Weight Loss, and Maintenance


  • Michael’s Story: A Case Study of Autism
  • A Light Lunch? A Case in Calorie Counting

Ecology and Behavior

  • The Dead Zone: Ecology and Oceanography in the Gulf of Mexico
  • Mathematics in Conservation: The Case of the Endangered Florida Panther

Biosphere and Conservation

  • Living Downstream: Atrazine and Coliform Bacteria Effects on Water Quality
  • The Effects of Coyote Removal in Texas: A Case Study in Conservation Biology

These 51 case studies are a great way to engage your students in science and mathematics. Blend 12 areas of general biology with quantitative reasoning in ways that will make your students better at evaluating product claims and news reports.
This book is also available as an e-book.

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