FRICCUS! Calculations in Science

Photo courtesy of Flickr – Creative Commons

I subscribe to a mailing list called CAPT – Connecting Advancing Physics Teachers, for the OCR B specification at A Level – and a regular contributor David Thomas threw in a slightly off-topic acronym: FRICCUS!

It came about as part of a discussion around the fact that exam boards are publishing their June 2014 papers far sooner after their exams than previously, meaning that our mock exams will be less reliable. The aside from David arose when talking about what the mark scheme expects in terms of calculations at A Level (though FRICCUS applies across key stages and all of the sciences). The mark scheme makes it appear as if all the examiner cares about is getting the right number out at the end, and the problem here is that students, who often try to become the master of the past paper, will become deskilled.

So David suggested that students ought to follow FRICCUS. Which means:

F – Formulae (state your formulae)

R – Rearrange (rearrange the formulae for whatever subject you require, before subbing numbers in)

I – Insert data (now insert your numbers)

C – Calculate (perform the calculation)

C – Check (don’t just think YES! I’VE DONE A CALCULATION! – look at the numbers. Would you expect the height of a person to be 1500km, or have you done something wrong?)

U – Units (always state your units!)

S – Significant figures (particularly important on our A Level course is to state to a reasonable number of significant figures and our students are often penalised for having too many)

How very simple and memorable. There is no reason that this cannot be applied across all key stages and all of the sciences: students should be working in that order, they should be reviewing their calculations to ensure it makes sense and the techniques involved in FRICCUS ensure all angles are covered.

I love it. How about you give it a go with your students?

2 Comment

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