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MATH120 Mathematics for Scientists

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The development of understanding, formulation and application of a variety of approaches to quantitative problem solving in scientific disciplines.

The modern world is built on science and technology. As such, the increasingly competitive job market requires new graduates to have confidence and fluency in quantitative problem solving. MATH 120 uses a problem-based learning approach to develop problem-solving and critical thinking skills by consistently working through applied examples from a range of scientific disciplines, while learning new techniques and tools. Students will be encouraged to try different approaches, critically analyse their findings and communicate them orally and/or as written reports. As a result, MATH 120 students will be ideally equipped to specialise in any discipline that includes a quantitative component.

Paper title Mathematics for Scientists
Paper code MATH120
Subject Mathematics
EFTS 0.1500
Points 18 points
Teaching period(s) Semester 1 (On campus)
Semester 2 (On campus)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $929.55
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

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MATH 101, MATH 102, MATH 160 and MATH 170
Schedule C
Arts and Music, Science

Suitable for any undergraduates and professionals with an interest in gaining more confidence and fluency with quantitative approaches to problem solving in the natural, social and medical sciences.


Teaching staff

To be confirmed

Paper Structure

The paper is structured around 5 modules:

  1. Measuring the natural world
  2. Emperical analysis
  3. Modelling change in time
  4. Computing with mthematical models
  5. Higher-dimensional models
Teaching Arrangements

MATH 120 is a standard 13-week semester paper, with three 1-hour lectures and one 2-hour laboratory per week. General drop-in sessions are also available weekly to help students with basic needs.

Students will work in groups of four on a semester-long themed project co-created with academics in other departments across the sciences.

The paper is 100% internally assessed with four types of assessments:

  • Five online assignments (40%)
  • Five laboratory-based assessments (30%)
  • Final individual project report (25%)
  • Oral presentation (5%)

Textbooks are not required for this paper.

Graduate Attributes Emphasised

Interdisciplinary perspective, critical thinking, scholarship, research, information literacy, communication.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.

Learning Outcomes

Students who successfully complete the paper will:

  • Understand the role of and how to formulate a scientific problem using quantitative approaches
  • Identify and evaluate relevant quantitative approaches for physical, geo-, biological, biomedical, business and social sciences
  • Evaluate, visualize and synthesize data for quantitative problem solving
  • Identify and apply appropriate models to describe scientific problems
  • Use a range of mathematical and computational techniques to solve problems

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Semester 1

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system


Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Monday 10:00-10:50 9-15, 18-22
Tuesday 10:00-10:50 9-15, 17-22
Wednesday 10:00-10:50 9-15, 17-22


Stream Days Times Weeks
Attend one stream from
A1 Wednesday 13:00-14:50 9-15, 17-22
A2 Wednesday 15:00-16:50 9-15, 17-22
A3 Thursday 10:00-11:50 9-15, 17-22
A4 Thursday 13:00-14:50 9-15, 17-22
A6 Friday 10:00-11:50 9-14, 17-22

Semester 2

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system


Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Monday 10:00-10:50 28-34, 36-41
Tuesday 10:00-10:50 28-34, 36-41
Wednesday 10:00-10:50 28-34, 36-41


Stream Days Times Weeks
Attend one stream from
A2 Wednesday 15:00-16:50 28-34, 36-41
A3 Thursday 10:00-11:50 28-34, 36-41
A5 Thursday 15:00-16:50 28-34, 36-41
A6 Friday 10:00-11:50 28-34, 36-41