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GEOL 1470: Environmental Geology
at Central Wyoming College

Implementor(s): Suki Smaglik Click here to visit my site
Enrollment: 15
Anticipated Start Date: September 6, 2011 (Semester)

Challenges to using math in introductory geoscience

The math prerequisite for this course is non-majors math or algebra. Last year was my first offering for this course and I was amazed at the abilities of the students as compared with my Phyiscal Geology class that only has an arithmetic pre-req. There is inevitably a wide range of abilities in my courses. I would like to have the appropriate prerequisite for my intro courses but I cannot get support from the administration that thinks there needs to be some gen ed sci classes that don't use math. That's like asking my colleagues to teaching painting without using brushes. A higher pre-req for the Environmental Geology course was approved because it is targeted to a specific program needing applied math skills. I see TMYN increasing the ability of students in my class to apply the math they know, in a context that they may not be familiar with, altho there may be students for whom the math will be challenging. I don't think that we use anything they shouldn't be able to do already, but for whatever reason, they don't seem capable of applying outside of their math class experience. My goal in using TMYN modules as pre-labs is that students be able to review the math that they will need to use to successfully complete the activity. I see it more as "bringing them up to speed" rather than developing a higher skill. Quantitative skills are developed during integrated guided inquiry exercises. By using math to work geologic problems, the students should be more successful at completing their assignments.

More about your geoscience course

Our Environmental Geology course is designed to support our new Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) Environmental Technician program. Thus, it focuses more on pollution and compliance (of the resource industry) rather than hazards. It is also a General Education lab science course. In the first offering last fall, the small (8 student) class was split 50/50. This course is taught in an integrated lecture/lab format using Living with Earth, 1/E (Hudson) and Investigations in Environmental Geology, 3/E (Foley, et al), with adaptations appropriate to local issues. This course is 4 semester credits/6 hour/week as integrated lab & lecture.

Inclusion of quantitative content pre-TMYN

Prior to using the TMYN modules, it was assumed that students could apply prior math knowledge to the geologic problems assigned in class. All math was done with paper and pencil and very little review was given. Some students never completed some math-intensive assignments (even though they earned a grade for them). (i.e. they turned in the assignment with math problems left blank)

Which Math You Need Modules will/do you use in your course?

Strategies for successfully implementing The Math You Need

Most of the labs in this course require the ability to use math of various types. The TMYN modules are assigned either as pre-labs OR used as part of an in-class lab. Therefore, TMYN will become the "culture" of the course rather than supplemental course material. This implementation page is an attempt to find a better way to use these modules. If done in class the students will work in a campus computer lab and I and my assistant will be available to assist them. I would say that 65% of this course requires quantitative skills. A pre-test and identical post-test will be taken by the students. The pre-test will assess what they know and what they'll need more help with. The post-test will evaluate how much they improved their quantitative reasoning skills having taken this course and using TMYN. Another goal will be to write questions for the exercises that pertain directly to the lab modules, making the implementation of TMYN relevant to the students taking this course.

Reflections and Results (after implementing)

It turned out that I had a VERY small class this time (started with 6, ended with 4). TMYN modules were helpful in increasing the students confidence in working thru lab exercises the first time they were assigned, but not very helpful as a review. Most of the assignments were done in class but some were assigned as homework. I would like to write some new questions to assign as a review rather than having them repeat previous questions. Despite the fact that the assignment was worth some points, we were crunched for time at the end and not a single student completed the post-test as homework. Next time I will do it in class and make it mandatory for passing the class. This course will be offered again this fall. I hope there are more students in the course. I will use this process again, perhaps with slight modifications.

Resources

Fall 2011 Syllabus with Schedule (Acrobat (PDF) 2.8MB Sep22 11)



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