Teach the Earth > Affective Domain > Dilemmas about Teaching > Meteorology Professor Bob

Meteorology Professor Bob

Ivanova Dorothea, Bob Butler, Cinzia Cervato, and Bill Bruihler
In an upper-level meteorology class, meteorology Professor Bob introduces complex equations that include calculus. A growing body of students strongly resists using mathematical skills that should have been mastered in the prerequisite mathematics courses. The instructor explains the context and necessity of these equations for understanding meteorology at the upper-division level. A common statement of students is: "I don't do math." Students insist they love meteorology but dislike math and lobby the department head for a graphical approach without the use of equations. The department chair rejects the student request for a graphical approach. Through the remainder of the semester, students do not accept the importance of the math, even including simple unit conversions. Student complaints take the form of consumer demands. Professor Bob feels that mathematics faculty have not laid the groundwork for students to apply their math learning to real problems. What has gone wrong and what should Professor Bob have done to avoid or mediate this situation?


Steve Semken, Tom Koballa, and Kelly Rocca

  • Professor Bob needs to explain the relevance of math. He should try to make it relevant to the life of the student, not just in the course (for the major, for their career, for what they do day-to-day). Along with this, the professor should emphasize that math is indispensable in this field, and that they will need to learn it for that reason alone.
  • Professor Bob should remind students that the course is an upper division course that requires math, and that students should possibly get tutoring—either from the professor, or the tutoring center, or both - if they don't know how to do the math. The importance of this remedial work needs to be emphasized as a prerequisite, and should be handled outside of the class. This is especially important here if the course is upper division and for majors.
  • Communication between the Math and Science (Meteorology) departments should be more effective to reflect the curriculum of each of their majors.

Meteorology Professor Bob  

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