Historical Geology (ESS 204)Implementor(s): Rich Busch
at West Chester University of Pennsylvania
Anticipated Start Date: August 28, 2012 (Semester)
Challenges to using math in introductory geoscience
It is a challenge to include math in my Historical Geology course at West Chester University. The course prerequisite is Introduction to Geology (Physical Geology) or permission of the instructor; however, there is no math prerequisite. Some students have no math above the high school level and have not had a math class for at least a year. Although this course is designed for freshman and sophomore-level students in our geoscience majors, two-thirds of the students in each class are normally juniors or seniors taking the course for another major or to satisfy the university-wide Writing Emphasis Requirement. The students are mostly from regional urban (Philadelphia), suburban, and rural high schools. There are about 12% ethnic minorities and 40% women taking the class. Students in the class have a wide range of quantitative skills, but a significant proportion of them have poor quantitative skills. Thus, I spend many hours per week (in and out of class) teaching them mathematics. I am excited about using TMYN as an additional tool to help my math-challenged students review and practice the math they will need before they use it. This may decrease the time that I have to spend with them on math skills, enhance their confidence/self esteem, and allow them to realize the value of using mathematics as they do geoscience inquiry. There are no obstacles to include mathematical content in my class. In fact, my department expects students in this class to demostrate transferable quantitative skills that they will need to sustain a geoscience career (as a professional geoscientist or science teacher).
More about your geoscience course: Historical Geology (ESS 204).
Historical Geology is required by my department (Department of Geology & Astronomy) for students in both of our majors (B.S. Geoscience; B.S. in Education–Earth & Space Science), serves as a prerequisite for many 300- and 400-level courses in my department, and is popular among students who pursue a minor in geoscience. The course prerequisite is Introduction to Geology (Physical Geology) or permission of the instructor; however, there is no math prerequisite. The course satisfies a major requirement for students in the Middle Grades teacher preparation major of the College of Education. It also satisfies the Writing Emphasis Requirement of the university-wide General Education curriculum that all students must achieve in addition to their majors. Consequently, in a typical section of 30 students, there are about 50% majors and 50% non-majors. The course meets twice a week, for two hours at a time. Nearly every class has manipulative components, but there are eight formal laboratories (plus exams, term paper, and field trip). Most of the labs, and some of the class manipulative activities have mathematical components. I teach all classes and laboratories (no T.A.s). I am the only instructor who teaches the course, and it has never been taught online.
Inclusion of quantitative content pre-TMYN
I address quantitative content in my introductory courses on a need-to-use basis. Although it is math that all of the students should have learned in high school, the non-majors struggle significantly. My goal in using TMYN is not to increase the amount of mathematics content. It is simply to help students review/re-learn the math knowledge/skills that they need to apply in the class. My past strategies for bringing students up to par have been: 1) take valuable class time to teach mathematics that the students will need and 2) work with individuals outside of class. I have tried to spend as little time as possible teaching mathematics in my Historical Geology class, so I have spent more time with individuals teaching math outside of class (a combined total for all students of 2 - 4 hours/week). Now I will assign a TMYN pre-test early in the course and assign modules for students to complete just before they are addressed in class/lab. The post-test will follow shortly after the last class/lab in which students apply their TMYN modules.
Which Math You Need Modules will/do you use in your course?
1. Density: this will be related to lab activities on density and distribution of Earth materials (rocks, minerals, elements), spheres, and processes (montle convection, plate tectonics, etc.)
2. Slopes and Topographic Profile: this will be related to lab activities on construction and interpretation of geologic cross sections (wherein they first construct a topopgraphic profile) and using dip slopes to infer attitude of geologic structures.
3. Rates: this will be related to helping students understand radioactive decay, radiometric dating, and rates of geologic processes (seafloor spreading, etc.)
Strategies for successfully implementing The Math You Need
I plan to have students take a pre-test and post-test in the course. Completion of the pretest will be required shortly after the start of the class. Completion of the post-test will be required shortly after the final class/lab in which the content of the modules has been applied. The Density Module will be assigned for completion by the start of our class activity on isostasy and plate tectonics. The Rates Module will be assigned for completion by the start of Lab 4, which deals with radioactive decay and radiometric dating. However, the material will be revisited relative to all discussions of rates of geologic processes. The Slope and Topographic Profile Module will be assigned for students to complete by the start of Lab 5, dealing with geologic maps, cross sections, and structures (during which they construct topographic profiles, add geology to make a geologic profile, and measure/extrapolate dip stopes to infer unseen geologic structures. The WAMAP pretest will be required (1 point pass/fail). Three modular quizzes will be worth 1 point each towards the student's final grade (percentage of correct answers x 1). Post-test is required (1 point pass/fail; 1 point penalty for not taking the test by due date; up to two points extra credit for taking the post-test–based on percentage complete times 2).
Historical Geology Syllabus Busch at WCUPA Fall 2012 (Microsoft Word 68kB Aug12 12)