Implementor(s): Jean Moran
at California State University East Bay
Anticipated Start Date: September 23, 2011 (Quarters/Trimesters)
Challenges to using math in introductory geoscience
The wide range of abilities in our student population, with a significant fraction either unprepared or underprepared, is a challenge to including mathematical concepts and exercises in my 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. My department and administration are very supportive of including math in lower division courses in concept, but designating courses that are required for majors as also filling the General Education science requirement gives rise to a student group with a wide range of abilities and expectations. Also, budget considerations preclude purchasing materials that might be needed to implement new methods. The university has a highly accessible math tutoring center for students needing math remediation but students in introductory geoscience courses have not used it, to my knowledge.
More about your geoscience course
The Physical Geology course is a lower division core requirement for Geology and Environmental Science majors (paired with Historical Geology), but also fills the General Education science-with-a-lab requirement so typically 2/3 of the students are non-majors. A separate, larger, introductory Earth Science course is typically taken by Education majors, but also by students filling the General Education science requirement. Physical Geology has a three hour lab each week and the lab exercises and lab manual offer several opportunities for use of TMYN. There are no TA's but the department technician could set up labs or materials needed for quantitative exercises.
Inclusion of quantitative content pre-TMYN
In the lecture portion of the class, I explain mathematical concepts, show examples, and have students work through additional examples either individually or in groups. Many of the lab exercises include graphing, profiling, working with map scales, converting units, or using equations to calculate something. During labs, I help students individually or in small groups if they have difficulty with the directions given in the lab manual. This is when I observe some improvement and success for students uncomfortable with math. I use visualizations or demonstrations for concepts such as order-of-magnitude sense. I use some kinesthetic or object manipulation activities for spatial concepts such as diffusion, convection vs. conduction, and strike and dip. About 30% of the class time is spent on quantitative skills, mostly during the lab component of the course.
Which Math You Need Modules will/do you use in your course?Density:mineral properties, isostasy, earth's interior
Graphing:igneous rock properties, metamorphic rock properties, elemental abundance, etc.
Plotting Points:earthquake location, topographic profile
Topographic Profile: geologic maps, streamflow
Reading Points from a Line:earthquake location, radiometric dating, seismology
Rates:plate movement, groundwater flow
Slopes:stream gradient, slope steepness, groundwater hydraulic gradient
Unit Conversions: several