Earth Science; Earth Science Lab
at Hillsborough Community College, Tampa, FL
Implementor(s): Matthew J. Werhner
Anticipated Start Date: Fall 2012 Term
Challenges to using math in introductory geoscience
Hillsborough Community College is a two year urban community college in Tampa, Florida with a diverse population of about 40,000 students. Virtually all students taking Earth Science are non-science majors taking a required physical science elective. These students are business, education, and liberal arts majors who are working on an AA degree and plan to transfer to a university. They arrive in our classes under prepared for any math included in laboratory experiments and suffer from math and science phobias. They lack basic math skills in fractions, percents, re-arranging equations, and number logic. Our classes have a wide range of students including recent high school graduates to adults, all with numerous priorities outside of school including work and family obligations.To give the math background needed to complete labs takes time away from actually doing the labs and the short math lesson I must give is not sufficient for most students to really grasp the concepts. They need to see examples and then practice on their own.
More about your geoscience course
Earth Science is the most popular physical science course chosen by our students who are non-science majors to fulfill a physical science requirement. It is a 3 credit class with a one credit co-requisite laboratory and it is in the lab that math is used the most. The lecture meets twice a week for 75 minutes with a 100 minute lab session once per week. There are two other instructors in the department (no TA's) with one or two adjuncts per term. Lectures typically have 32 students whilethe labs are capped at 24. Students can pick any lab to go with their lecture so I do not necessarily have all of my lecture students in my lab. My goal is not to create geologists but rather help students better understand earth processes, and hence the many environmental problems facing us today, while also improving their logical thinking, problem solving, and math literacy skills. I also teach this class online and plan to implement TMYN in the future.
Inclusion of quantitative content pre-TMYN
Earth Science labs are 100 minutes long and meet once per week. For any lab that requires some math I give a 10-20 minute introduction to the math they need. However this is really insufficient because it is too much too fast for many students to fully grasp and takes a significant chunk of time from the lab period. I am hoping TMYN will allow students to learn the necessary concepts at their own speed with sufficient practice to improve their proficiency and confidence in their math skills.
Which Math You Need Modules will/do you use in your course?
Density: Measurement and Density lab
Plotting Points: Earthquakes lab
Topographic Profile: Topographic maps lab
Rearranging Equations: Heat lab
Unit Conversions: Metric System lab
Strategies for successfully implementing The Math You Need
The pre-test will be assigned on the first lab day. On this first day of lab I go over the syllabus and I will include an explanation of TMYN. Students will then be sent to the computer lab to do the pretest. I plan to use five modules that relate directly to topics we cover in my Earth Science lab. The module will be assigned the week before the lab is to be performed and will be due before the lab begins. Students will have to complete a module quiz and will be allowed as many attempts as they want. The average of all of their TMYN module quizzes will count as one lab grade. The post test will be done the day of the final exam review (see syllabus).
Reflections and Results (after implementing)
This is the lab syllabus for this course:
Earth Science Lab Syllabus (Microsoft Word 223kB Jul28 12)