Introduction to Meteorology
at SUNY College at Oneonta
Implementor(s): Todd Ellis
Anticipated Start Date: August 24, 2010 (Semester)
About my institution
SUNY Oneonta is a primarily undergraduate institution (PUI) located in the Central-Leatherstocking Region of New York State, nearly halfway between Binghamton and Albany. It serves roughly 6,000 students, many of whom are planning to become teachers (as a former normal school). SUNY Oneonta also has a strong Earth and Atmospheric Sciences department, with 100-200 majors at any one time.
Challenges to using math in introductory geoscience
I believe that the challenges of offering mathematics within introductory meteorology at SUNY Oneonta are as follows (these are equally relevant for our introductory geology course as well):
- Too many students are taking introductory geoscience with the expectation that it will meet their lab science requirement without being a physics, chemistry, or biology lab. In short, it appears to be an mathematically easier path and as such, the students often are weaker in math skills;
- Meteorology is a bit "all-or-nothing" when it comes to math. The mathematics at the introductory level are far below the mathematical skills required of a meteorology major (which eventually requires Partial Differential Equations). As such, the tendency I have as an instructor is to teach at the descriptive level rather than be explicit about the mathematical skills they will be developing. On the other hand, since this could be the only lab science that some students have, I feel an obligation to be more explicit about the mathematical skills they are developing in this course.
More about your geoscience course
Meteorology 110 is the introduction to the meteorology major and a general lab science course that satisfies one of SUNY's general education requirements. Therefore, it is a service course for the whole college, and it's quite popular because the topic is one with which they have daily experience and is therefore less threatening than other science courses.
It's a 24-26 person class because it is meant to be a lab course, with computer usage and lab exercises that we have developed in house (relevant labs will be linked in the Resources session). Generally there are 3-4 sections per semester, each taught by professors without TA's and each is fairly autonomous in structure (each professor has different texts and labs). The lab exercises are group exercises that include mathematical skills, especially in the first half of the semester (the second half tends to be filled with meteorology case studies that are not explicitly mathematical in nature). This course is not taught online due to its lab component.
Introductory meteorology usually has maybe 5% majors, 20% science education and other earth science majors, and 75% is the rest of the population of students who are seeking to fulfill their general education requirements. Other science majors would not take this class since they do not need a lab science class outside of their major.
Inclusion of quantitative content pre-TMYN
The labs require basic graphing skills, making and interpreting contour plots of atmospheric variables, and unit conversions. There has been no time devoted to reviewing those mathematical elements in class. Rather the relevant skills are introduced by the instructor at the beginning of a lab session and then remedial instruction is provided on a one-on-one basis during the lab. Students collect data, but we do not require them to do much more than plot it either on a graph or a map. There is also a brief descriptive discussion of force balances which implicitly uses vector math. I think there is a need to use TMYN modules to cover introductions to these topics before the labs in order to explicitly assist quantitative skill development and confidence. I devote very little lecture time to these quantitative skills at present, which is something I am addressing with this strategy. I suspect that implementing TMYN will save about 15-20 minutes of lab introduction out of the 2 hour lab session for each of the first four labs, as well as cutting down on the amount of effort that I will need to devote to one-on-one math tutoring during the labs, enabling me to focus on discussing the science content more explicitly.
Which Math You Need Modules will/do you use in your course?
- Density (Introduction to Course)
- Slopes (Before Lab 1)
- Topographic Profile (Before Lab 1)
- Rearranging Equations (Before Lab 2)
- Unit Conversions (Before Lab 3)
- Graphing (Before Lab 4)
- Plotting Points (Before Lab 4)
- Rates (Before Lab 4)
Strategies for successfully implementing The Math You NeedI plan to implement TMYN following this timeline:
- First day of class: Following the syllabus review and course overview, introduce TMYN by reviewing the Density module as a class and by completing a 2 question quiz with the entire class that shows how WAMAP works. Students will be expected to complete a pre-test on their own by the end of the next day.
- Prior to Lab 1: Complete the Slopes and Topographic Profile modules as a pre-lab exercise (Note: I will introduce this in class by showing them examples of a contour plot in meteorology to help them understand its relevance until such time as the module more explicitly allows for meteorology examples too). These skills will be related to some of the basic isoplething exercises in Lab 1.
- Prior to Lab 2: Complete the Rearranging Equations module. These skills will be reinforced in Lecture, when talking about energy and radiation in the atmosphere and how certain equations can be rearranged to solve for emission temperature or wavelength or energy. These skills are related to the content of Lab 2, which is on the topic of Sun and the Earth's Energy Budget
- Prior to Lab 3: Complete the Unit Conversions module as a pre-lab exercise. (Note: We also often introduce Lapse Rates in this lab, and in the future, I hope lapse rates may be included with the Slopes module or as a stand-alone).
- Prior to Lab 4: Complete the Graphing and Rates modules as a pre-lab exercise. Specifically, I am interested in having students review plotting, connecting points, reading points off a graph, and calculating rates from a graph. The pre-lab quiz will be designed to combine and emphasize these skills. Plotting and calculating rates from a graph are explicitly part of Lab 4, and reading points off a graph often comes up explicitly in lecture around this time.
- Midterm I, Midterm II, and the Final Exam will include a selection of questions using these skills (roughly 10% of the questions will likely be designed to test these mathematical skills)
- A Post-test, identical in content to the pre-test, will be required during the last week of classes.
The assessments will be counted as 5% of that week's lab score to encourage participation. The pre-test will be worth 5 points extra credit to be applied to the students' lowest lab score. The post-test will be built into the final exam, and separated for the benefit of the TMYN evaluation.
I plan to continue to refer back to these exercises throughout the semester in lecture and lab, reinforcing the relevance of the mathematical exercises, not as an add-on to the class, but as an integral part of understanding the science. For example, when doing Climate Classification, I will show various graphs and ask students to be able to classify the climate of a location based on their interpretation of graphs. The skills developed to use graphs and unit conversions will also help students with their preparation of case studies and more advanced topics later in labs in the second half of the semester.
Reflections and Results (after implementing)
ResourcesMeteorology 110 Fall 2011 Syllabus (Acrobat (PDF) 143kB Jul29 11)
Meteorology 110 Lab 1 (Acrobat (PDF) 367kB Jul28 11)
Meteorology 110 Lab 3 (Acrobat (PDF) 115kB Jul28 11)
Meteorology 110 Lab 4 (Acrobat (PDF) 80kB Jul28 11)