Do bacon sandwiches increase your chance of getting cancer? Why are some drug treatments not available on the NHS? Does the maths you learn in the classroom REALLY have any practical use?

To answer these questions and more, we are producing a series of five multi-media packs on Maths and Our Health, funded by the Wellcome Trust. The packs are designed for use with secondary school students, and aim to encourage students both to explore the practical applications of the maths they learn in the classroom in a very real setting, and also to help them reach an informed understanding of some of the issues about health and medicine that they encounter on a daily basis through media headlines.

Each pack is based around short video clips of an expert in a health-related field talking about why maths is important to them, with related investigative activities and worksheets for students. The first two packs are now ready for classroom use.

"Eating bacon sandwiches is bad for you!" - Evaluating Risk

"20% greater risk of getting bowel cancer if you eat bacon sandwiches!"  So said the headlines in October 2007.

Of course we're all used to newspaper headlines which aim to shock us with eye-catching numbers.  But how worried should we actually be by statistics such as this?

Professor David Spiegelhalter, the expert speaker in the videos in this pack of resources, loves analysing headlines to find out what if any truth there is in them!  Using a straightforward numerical approach he shows us how to work out what is really being said so we can decide for ourselves what the risk is in eating bacon sandwiches - and whether we need to stop eating them or not.

Through watching David's video clips and working through some of the resources, students will be sensitised to the need to dig a bit deeper and not simply believe all that they hear.

The resources in this pack cover the KS3 and 4 range, and areintended to provide students with interesting contexts in which to develop/apply their knowledge of percentages and/or graphs.  Some resources are aimed at early KS3, others would be suitable for older students revising these areas, including GCSE preparation.

The economics of health: how do we decide?

Newspapers tell us heart-rending stories of people refused potentially life-saving treatment because it is too expensive...

"Betrayed by the NHS: Doctor who gave her life to health service is refused vital cancer drugs that could save her.."  A UK primary care trust "has refused to fund [this treatment] because it has not been fully approved by the rationing body, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE)."  Mail Online, 1 March 2011

Yet we all know difficult decisions have to be made: there is not enough health-care to go round, and the pressures on Health Service budgets are growing. Even if healthcare budgets were increased, by taking money from other services, there would still not be enough to pay for everything that is demanded.

Dr Sarah Garner, who features in the video clips in this pack, is one of the people whose work helps NICE decide whether to approve a new treatment for use in the NHS. The video clips will help students to understand why decisions like this need to be made, and how they are made.

The resources in this pack give students the opportunity to work with multi-step calculations, graphs, equations and probabilities and to investigate mathematical models like those which inform NICE’s decisions.  It is aimed at older (14+) KS4 students preparing for higher level GCSE exams.

Go to the Economics of Health multimedia pack.

Further topics coming soon:

The other three packs will be ready for use from September:

·       Epidemics: Modelling with mathematics (KS3/KS4)

·       Life saving maths: How does vaccination work? (KS3/KS4)

·       The test is positive: But what are the odds it’s wrong? (KS4)