ERSC 101 An Introduction to Earth Science
at The Community College of Baltimore County
Implementor(s): David J Ludwikoski
Anticipated Start Date: January 28, 2013 (Semester)
Challenges to using math in introductory geoscience
The Community College of Baltimore County is comprised of four main campuses and two extension centers. The college is located in Baltimore County, and serves approximately 70,000 students in central Maryland and southern Pennsylvania, including Baltimore City, Baltimore county and the surrounding counties. Approximately 52% of students are minorities. Student goals are varied, with some completing associate degrees, others completing certificate programs, while others are transients who only need to take one or two courses to transfer to another school.
Most students beginning classes at CCBC are woefully underprepared in mathematics and in the sciences. As a community college with a wide range of demographics, CCBC also has a wide range of abilities among the student population. Students typically delay taking math and science classes until the end of their academic careers, or, many of those that completed those courses previously either barely passed algebra, or so much time has passed that they've forgotten whatever they've learned. As a result, many incoming students have to take remedial math courses, ranging from whole numbers to college algebra. They frequently lack organizational skills, so another challenge to instruction is getting students to show all of their work when completing problems or exercises.
The school of mathematics and science is always inplementing new methods to improve student instruction, and welcomes opportunities that measure improvement in student learning.
I see The Math You Need when You Need it as presenting BOTH new AND additional opportunities to increase quantitative skills in earth science courses, and, in hopefully an enjoyable and non-threatening way to ease the fears of the those with math phobias. It is also an opportunity to reduce significantly the amount of class time spent reteaching math as opposed to geoscience, with the time spent by the student prior to the lab, as opposed to the instructor during lab. It really levels the playing field between the advanced students and the struggling students.
More about your geoscience course
An Introduction to Earth Science is a combined 4.0 credit hour lecture/laboratory course designed as a survey and geared primarily for those in teacher education or those needing a general education course to fulfull a science. In terms of content, it is weighted more heavily toward geology, with minor components of meteorology, oceanography, and solar system astronomy. The course is comprised of three hours of lecture and two hours of laboratory per week, for the face-to-face sections. There are currently 7 face to face sections, taught by several full-time and adjunct instructors. There are also 2 online sections of the course. TMYN will have a primary student benefit in the laboratory, especially in terms of rate calculation, point plotting and graphing, and unit conversion for map scales on topographic maps. At the community college, unlike universities, we don't have any TAs or helpers, so the intial use of TMYN will be mine, until I train other interested faculty.
Inclusion of quantitative content pre-TMYN
Very little quantitative content is addressed in the lecture portion of the course as it is currently structured. Some quantitative aspects are addressed in lab, including graph construction, radioactive dating, topographic map reading and contour lines/slopes, and density of seawater, using custom lab manual exercises. Often, almost half a lab period can be spent "going over" the math skills students need to complete the lab. Students are very underprepared in many of the most basic skills, and don't know how to show their own work. The goal to improve student learning both pre- and post-lab is to use TMYN to increase quantitative content in the course, and to make it more practical and relevant to students' everyday lives so that they will be more likely to take ownership of their success in completing the modules. Through the implementation of pre and post tests in the course, and through the pre-lab assignment of appropriate modules, I hope to spend less time reviewing and reteaching math skills and more time teaching the geoscience concepts that are the focus of that particular lab.
Which Math You Need Modules will you use in your course?
Graphing (Seasons Lab)
Plotting Points (Seasons Lab)
Reading Points from a Line (Seasons Lab)
Slopes (Topgraphic Maps)
Unit Conversions (Topographic Maps)
Strategies for successfully implementing The Math You Need
The pretest will be assigned during the first week of class, before any content material is covered. Points given for completion of the pre and post-test tests will be assigned under quizzes and will total no more than 80 points out of the maximum possible 800 points for the course. (see lecture syllabus point breakdown). In this way, the points can make a difference beween letter grades, but not significantly enough to either inflate or deflate the course grade. I want to make the modules available to the students to use and practice before the lab where each is needed, and to also monitor their progress, so that if additional time is needed, I could plan for it, especially through the use of office hours and time outside of class. All tests and modulles will be adminstered, graded, and monitored through a link to WAMAP through Blackboard.
For example, the students will be initially assigned the reading graphs module to prepare them for the graph they need to plot for the earthquake lab. Later, the unit conversion and slopes modules will be assigned before we cover map scales in the two-week lab on topographic maps. Finally, the students will need to complete the plotting points and reading graphs modules prior to the important Seasons lab scheduled late in the semester, which requires the anlaysis of data and the submission of a formal written lab report.
Finally, the post-test will be assigned during the last week, following the lab final, while the material should be still "fresh" in the students' minds.
Reflections and Results (after implementing)
ResourcesERSC 101 Lecture Syllabus (Microsoft Word 112kB Jan22 13)
ERSC 101 Lab syllabus (Microsoft Word 80kB Jan22 13)