Communicating and understanding numerical information is a vital part of a biologist’s skillset. Biology operates across a huge range of scales and so it is essential that students have a grasp of how to think about and manipulate very large and very small numbers, and the ability to ‘sanity check’ results via estimation to see if they are plausible.
Using the right units is essential to make quantitative statements meaningful.
Correct use of decimal and standard form allow biologists to communicate ideas exactly and without error across a huge range of scales.
Ratios, fractions and percentages allow biologists to present their own data, and understand other scientist’s data, in relative terms by comparing with past data or similar data from another experiment or source.
Ball park estimation is a powerful tool for protecting yourself against silly calculation errors and demonstrates a good grasp of the scale and function of the system you are investigating.
When the measurements taken in a single experiment range over a very wide range, with some differing by very small quantities and others by very large quantities, it is highly valuable to be able to use powers and logs to discuss and present the information.