Maths Skills to be a Doctor

Doctor and Lawyer are the top two favourite careers in Singapore. Do doctors need to use Maths? Read the below to find out.

Even if Maths is not directly needed, the logical thinking skills learnt in Mathematics will definitely be of great use. 🙂

I am not a medical doctor, but my two younger siblings are medical students, and the Mathematical knowledge and thinking skills have definitely helped them in their medical studies.


Functional numeracy is as essential to an aspiring medical professional as functional literacy. As a physician, perhaps the most important mathematical skills you will need are:

1. Basic mathematical knowledge sufficient to calculate drug doses, concentrations, etc.

2. An understanding of the core statistical concepts most commonly represented in the medical literature.

3. Knowledge of algebra to understand calculations of acid–base status, etc.

4. Ability to appreciate whether or not results are mathematically plausible.    (Nusbaum, 2006)

The careful logical reasoning that is necessary for the study of mathematics is an essential element of clinical reasoning. Although you do not need higher mathematics to get through medical school, you will need the ability to manipulate numbers, including fractions, ratios, powers of 10 and logarithms. You will also need a basic understanding of probability, graphs and simple algebra. You will need to rearrange equations and convert between units of measure.



It’s often unclear from your interactions with a doctor how much math she is using in order to treat you. While not all doctors have to use math as directly and frequently as engineers do, all of them must understand the complex mathematical equations that inform different medical treatments in order to administer treatments correctly.

Dosages and Half-Life

One of the most common ways in which doctors use mathematics is in the determination of medicine prescriptions and dosages. Doctors not only have to use basic arithmetic to calculate what dosage of a particular drug will be effective for your height and body type over a specific period of time, they will also have to be aware of the medicine’s cycle through the body and how the dosage of one drug compares with the dosage of a similar type of drug. Sometimes doctors have to use calculus to figure out the right dosage of a drug. Calculus is the study of how changing variables affect a system. In the human body, the kidney processes medicine. However, people’s kidneys are at varying levels of health. Doctors can designate the kidney as a changing function in a calculus equation known as the Cockroft-Gault equation. This equation uses the level of creatine in a patient’s blood to find the level of the kidney’s functioning, which allows the doctor to determine the appropriate dose.

Cancer Treatment

When a doctor administers radiation therapy to a cancer patient, the radiation beams have to cross each other at specific angles, so that they harm the cancerous tumor without harming the surrounding healthy tissue. The precise numbers for these angles must be calculated mathematically. Cancer tends to respond to any drug by mutating so that its DNA is no longer affected by that drug. Oncologists and medical scientists have decided to target cancerous tumors with many different kinds of drugs at once so that the cancer is unable to respond adequately. They use complex mathematical models that plot the speed and timing of the cancer’s different mutations to figure out what combinations and dosages of different drugs should be used.

Medical Images and Tests

Doctors in medical imaging use two-dimensional images of a patient’s body taken from thousands of angles to create a three-dimensional image for analysis. Determining what angles should be used and how they will fit together requires mathematics. Medical researchers who study disease will analyze the mathematical dimensions of these images. Neurologists who run EEGs on patients to measure their brain waves must add and subtract different voltages and use Fourier transforms to filter out signal static. Fourier transforms are used to alter functions in calculus.

Treatment Research

Medical scientists working with cardiologists use differential equations to describe blood flow dynamics. They also build sophisticated computer models to find the ideal size of an artificial aorta and where to place it in an infant pending a heart transplant. Doctors have to read medical journals to keep up on the latest scientific findings for the benefit of their patients. In addition to describing the calculus used to model health conditions, medical journal studies also make heavy use of statistics and probability to describe the health conditions of whole populations and the likelihood that different treatments will be effective.

Rote learning has to make way for digital literacy: Heng Swee Keat


Education Minister Heng Swee Keat has said that with information readily available, rote learning has to make way for digital literacy.

SINGAPORE: Education Minister Heng Swee Keat has said that with information readily available, rote learning has to make way for digital literacy.

Speaking at the Second International Summit of the Book on Friday, Mr Heng said there is a need to place greater emphasis on critical and inventive thinking.

Whether it is a papyrus, print or the iPad, it seems that books are here to stay.

Professor Tommy Koh, chairman of the Organising Committee of the Second International Summit of the Book, and Ambassador-at-Large, said: “I think the book will endure to the end of time.

“But the form of the book has changed and will change. The container will change, the platform on which we read the book will also change.

“My children, for example, prefer to read the book either on the computer, on the iPad, on the tablet and other electronic forms. I still prefer the printed book. But in one form or another, the book will endure. There can be no human civilisation without books.”

But the question is whether readers are able to discern truths from untruths, especially in an era that is inundated with information.

Mr Heng said: “Some fear that the technologically sophisticated books of the future will dull the mind, as we no longer bother to use our imagination to render words into sounds and images.

“They worry too that we will forget to think for ourselves after we close the book because social media offers such an array of ready-made opinions that we will just pick one off the virtual shelf rather than form our own.

“We need to place greater emphasis on critical and inventive thinking, so that we may go on to imagine and create new insights.

“At the workplace, as the information revolution transforms the nature of work, our ability to move from theory to practice, to apply learning imaginatively in different contexts, and to create new knowledge, will become increasing valuable.”

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