Math You Need > About this Project > TMYN abstracts at AGU 2011

The Math You Need, When You Need It Abstracts submitted to AGU in 2011


Improving quantitative skills in introductory geoscience courses at a four-year public institution using online math modules

Gordon, E S, Geo/Physical Science, Fitchburg State University, Fitchburg, MA, USA
Fitchburg State University has a diverse student population comprised largely of students traditionally underrepresented in higher education, including first-generation, low-income, and/or students with disabilities. Approximately half of our incoming students require developmental math coursework, but often enroll in science classes prior to completing those courses. Since our introductory geoscience courses (Oceanography, Meteorology, Geology, Earth Systems Science) do not have prerequisites, many students who take them lack basic math skills, but are taking these courses alongside science majors. In order to provide supplemental math instruction without sacrificing time for content, "The Math You Need, When You Need It (TMYN), a set of online math tutorials placed in a geoscience context, will be implemented in three of our introductory courses (Oceanography, Meteorology, and Earth Systems Science) during Fall, 2011. Students will complete 5-6 modules asynchronously, the topics of which include graphing skills, calculating rates, unit conversions, and rearranging equations. Assessment of quantitative skills will be tracked with students' pre- and post-test results, as well as individual module quiz scores. In addition, student assessment results from Oceanography will be compared to student data from Academic Year 2010-11, during which quantitative skills were evaluated with pre- and post-test questions, but students did not receive online supplemental instruction.

The Role of Instructor Engagement in Facilitating Mathematics Remediation With The Math You Need, When You Need It

Wenner, J M, Geology Dept, Univ Wisconsin Oshkosh, Oshkosh, WI, USA and Kramer, K, Geology, McHenry County College, Crystal Lake, IL, USA
At McHenry County College (MCC), The Math You Need, When You Need It (TMYN) has become an effective online tool to help remediate mathematics for introductory geoscience students. This online tool offers a solution to the many challenges that geoscience instructors face in including quantitative content: diverse abilities, lack of classroom time, math phobia, etc. Whereas student engagement and success rates measure the effectiveness and flexibility of the program, the experience at MCC suggests that instructor engagement with the content can serve to reinforce the importance of quantitative skills and may be essential to encouraging students to interact with the online content. This study examines the importance of the instructor to the success of the program. Although TMYN is an online resource, studies of its use in conjunction with a geoscience course indicate that students were more engaged when instructors explicitly reinforced the importance and relevance of the modules throughout three semesters of Physical Geology at MCC. Results suggest that student engagement with the online resource was sustained (90-100% completion rates) and average post-test scores increased by as much as 29 percentage points. Furthermore, positive attitudes about the helpfulness of mathematics tutorials are significant, with 70-96% of students responding positively to the question "This module was helpful". Anecdotal evidence from both students and instructor suggest that implementation of TMYN at McHenry County College has led to improved geologic problem-solving skills in students and less time spent remediating math. We present strategies for effectively reinforcing both mathematical skills and their application to geology and give insight into how you can adapt these strategies to your own Physical Geology course.

Encouraging Competence in Basic Mathematics in Hydrology using The Math You Need

Fredrick, K C, Earth Sciences, California University of Pennsylvania, California, PA, USA
California University of Pennsylvania has experienced significant growth in interest of its Earth Science programs over the last few years. With the burgeoning shale gas exploration and drilling, along with continued environmental problems, students and parents recognize the potential for jobs in the region in the Geosciences. With this increase in student interest has come an increase in the number of majors including a greater number of first-year students entering the major right from high school. Hydrology, is an important course within the Earth Science department curriculum. It is required by all Geology, Meteorology, and Earth and Space Science Education majors. It also serves majors from the Biology program, but is not required. This mix of students based on major expectations, grade level, and background leads to a varied distribution of math competencies. Many students enter unprepared for the rigors of a physics-based Hydrology course. The pre-requisites for the course are Introduction to Geology, a mostly non-quantitative survey course, and College Algebra. However, some students are more confident in their math skills because they have completed some level of Calculus. Regardless of the students' perceived abilities, nearly all struggle early on in the course because they have never used math within the context of Hydrology (or Science for that matter) , including continuity, conservation, and fluid dynamics. In order to make sure students have the basic skills to understand the science, it has been necessary to dedicate significant class time to such topics as Unit Conversions, Scientific Notation, Significant Figures, and basic Graphing. The Math You Need (TMYN) is an online tool, which requires students to complete instructor-selected questions to assess student competence in fundamental math topics. Using Geology as the context for the questions in the database, TMYN is ideal for introductory-level courses, but can also be effective as a review tool in higher-level courses. For our Hydrology course, we employ a strategy to integrate TMYN assessments throughout the course, to continually encourage students to practice math skills and introduce others that might be unfamiliar. The course begins with a pass/fail pre-assessment to gauge math competencies across the class, to prepare students for the rigors of the course, and to make sure they are technically able to access the website. Beginning the first week, and continuing through the first twelve weeks of the semester, additional assessments are assigned and graded on a pass/fail basis. The assessments include a guided module, followed by a brief quiz. The modules are aligned with the course materials as much as possible. At the end of the course, a post-assessment is assigned to measure student improvement. Most of the students will continue on to courses within Geology or Meteorology, depending on major, for which Hydrology is a pre-requisite. For the students, TMYN will serve to lay the groundwork for improved math competencies throughout their college career. For the faculty, this model allows for more class time to concentrate on science content, lab activities, and data analysis.

Implementing 'The Math You Need' in an Introductory Physical Geology Course at California State University East Bay

Moran, J E, Earth and Environmental Sci, California State University, Hayward, CA, USA
The wide range of abilities in the student population at California State University East Bay, with a significant fraction of students under-prepared and requiring mathematics remediation, is a challenge to including mathematical concepts and exercises in our introductory geoscience courses. Student expectations that a geoscience course will not include quantitative work may result in math-phobics choosing the course and resisting quantitative work when presented with it. Introductory courses that are required for Geology and Environmental Science majors are also designated as General Education, which gives rise to a student group with a wide range of abilities and expectations. This presentation will focus on implementation of a series of online math tutorials for students in introductory geoscience courses called 'The Math You Need' (TMYN; http://serc.carleton.edu/mathyouneed/index.html). The program is implemented in a Physical Geology course, in which 2/3 of the students are typically non-majors. The Physical Geology course has a three hour lab each week and the lab exercises and lab manual offer several opportunities for application of TMYN. Many of the lab exercises include graphing, profiling, working with map scales, converting units, or using equations to calculate some parameter or solve for an unknown. Six TMYN modules covering topics using density calculations as applied to mineral properties and isostasy, graphing as applied to rock properties, earthquake location, and radiometric dating, and calculation of rates as applied to plate movement, stream discharge, and groundwater flow, are assigned as pre-labs to be completed before lab classes. TMYN skills are reinforced during lectures and lab exercises, as close in time as possible to students' exposure via TMYN. Pre- and post-tests give a measure of the effectiveness of TMYN in improving students' quantitative literacy.

Use of On-Line Math Skills Modules in an Introductory General Education Geoscience Course at a Community College: The Importance of Integration Across Lab & Lecture Sections

Moosavi, S C, Rochester Community Technical, Mankato, MN, USA
The NSF sponsored on-line math skills module series The Math You Need When You Need It (TMYN) was constructed to provide math skill development and support to introductory geoscience course instructors whose students science learning is often hindered by deficiencies in critical math skills. The on-line modules give instructors a mechanism for student-centered, skill-specific math tutorials, practice exercises and assessments outside regular class time. In principle, a student deficient in a skill such as graphing, calculating a best-fit line or manipulating and quantifying a concept such as density can use the appropriate TMYN module to identify their area of weakness, focus on developing the skill using geologically relevant examples, and get feedback reflecting their mastery of the skill in an asynchronous format just as the skill becomes critical to learning in the course. The asynchronous format allows the instructor to remain focused on the geoscience content during class time without diverting all students' attention to skill remediation needed by only a subset of the population. Such a blended approach prevents the progression of the class from being slowed by the need for remediation for some students while simultaneously not leaving those students behind. The challenge to geoscience educators comes in identifying the best strategy for implementing TMYN modules in their classrooms. This presentation contrasts the effectiveness of 2 strategies for implementing TMYN in an introductory Earth System Science class taken as a general education science lab requirement by lower division students at a community college. This course is typical of many such large general education courses in that lab instruction is provided by separate educators from the primary instructor in charge of the lecture, often creating 2 parallel and only dimly connected courses in the experience of many students. In case 1, TMYN was implemented in 3 of 4 lab sections by an adjunct lab instructor while the primary instructor made no mention or use of TMYN in lecture or in the remaining lab section. In case 2, the same instructors each taught independent lecture and lab (2) sections, with TMYN being fully integrated in the course of the first instructor while not mentioned in that of the second. The strengths and weaknesses of each approach both for faculty implementation and student learning are compared with important insights into how such modules should be implemented in lecture/lab courses with separate instructors.

The Math You Need at Trinity College, Hartford CT

Geiss, C E, Trinity College-Physics, Hartford, CT, USA
Trinity College is a small, private, highly selective liberal arts college with approximately 2400 students. Most students have relatively well developed quantitative skills, but many are nevertheless insecure about their abilities and reluctant to engage in courses that stress quantitative content. I have used The Math You Need (TMYN) modules in an introductory geology course which serves both majors and non-majors in Trinity's Environmental Science Program. This dual audience makes the introduction of quantitative exercises labor intensive and challenging for both students and instructor. TMYN was introduced to a) offer the students an independent support structure outside of class and to b) free up some class and office hour time that would have been spent on mathematical background information. TMYN was added to the course as a set of homework assignments preceding related laboratory exercises and homework assignments. During the semester most feedback regarding TMYN was negative. Some outspoken students either saw it as additional busywork or generally disliked "being taught by a computer". A review of pre- and post-test data, however, revealed that the exercises improved students' quantitative skills. Furthermore, in the assignments most students ranked the exercises as useful and rewarding. These positive results were relatively independent of student skill levels.

Implementing online quantitative support modules in an intermediate-level course

Daly, J, University of Maine at Farmington, Farmington, ME, USA
While instructors typically anticipate that students in introductory geology courses enter a class with a wide range of quantitative ability, we often overlook the fact that this may also be true in upper-level courses. Some students are drawn to the subject and experience success in early courses with an emphasis on descriptive geology, then experience frustration and disappointment in mid- and upper-level courses that are more quantitative. To bolster student confidence in quantitative skills and enhance their performance in an upper-level course, I implemented several modules from The Math You Need (TMYN) online resource with a 200-level geomorphology class. Student facility with basic quantitative skills (rearranging equations, manipulating units, and graphing) was assessed with an online pre- and post-test. During the semester, modules were assigned to complement existing course activities (for example, the module on manipulating units was assigned prior to a lab on measurement of channel area and water velocity, then calculation of discharge). The implementation was designed to be a concise review of relevant skills for students with higher confidence in their quantitative abilities, and to provide a self-paced opportunity for students with less quantitative facility to build skills. This course already includes a strong emphasis on quantitative data collection, analysis, and presentation; in the past, student performance in the course has been strongly influenced by their individual quantitative ability. I anticipate that giving students the opportunity to improve mastery of fundamental quantitative skills will improve their performance on higher-stakes assignments and exams, and will enhance their sense of accomplishment in the course.