Len Vacher

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Geology
Dept of Geology, University of South Florida

Materials Contributed through SERC-hosted Projects

Project Leader on these Projects(2)

Spreadsheets Across the Curriculum: The Geology of National Parks Collection part of Spreadsheets Across the Curriculum:Geology of National Parks
A resource of Spreadsheets Across the Curriculum modules for the introductory geology course, Geology of National Parks, at the University of South Florida.

Spreadsheets Across the Curriculum part of Spreadsheets Across the Curriculum
Spreadsheets Across the Curriculum is a three-year project to develop and test educational spreadsheet modules that enhance quantitative literacy wherever quantitative problems arise in the undergraduate curriculum.

Activities (21)

The Floating Lithosphere - Isostasy part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
This activity lays the mathematical underpinning for studying isostasy in the Earth. Students numerically and then analytically determine the relations governing the depth of compensation in a variety of situations including a block of ice floating in water. Students recreate spreadsheets shown in the PowerPoint module on their own with formulas that answer various pieces of the overall question. This modules is the first in a set of three exploring isostasy.

Frequency of Large Earthquakes -- Introducing Some Elementary Statistical Descriptors part of Spreadsheets Across the Curriculum:General Collection:Examples
In this Spreadsheets Across the Curriculum activity, students examine the number of large (magnitude 7 or larger) earthquakes per year in the 30-year period, 1970-1999. They build spreadsheets to find the mean, median, modes, max, min, range, variance, standard deviation, interquartile range, and a variety of percentiles. They compare three ways of determining quartiles. They compare the frequency distribution of earthquakes per year with the normal distribution using percentiles calculated from the data. In the end-of-module assignments, they use their spreadsheets to explore the data from the preceding 30 years (1940-1969) and the whole 60-year period (1940-1969). The data are from the QELP (Quantitive Environmental Learning Project) Website. The module includes links to QELP and some U.S. Geological Survey sites about earthquake frequency and magnitude.

Density of Earth - Using Some Field Data part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
This module addresses the problem of how to determine the density of the earth and has students do some field experiments to get the data they need to answer the problem. Students recreate spreadsheets shown in the Powerpoint module on their own with formulas that answer various pieces of the overall question. This is the second module in a series of six that examine the density of planets and rocks.

The Floating Lithosphere - Eureka! part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
In this module, students examine Archimede's Principle in general and how it applies to Isostasy. Students recreate spreadsheets shown in the Powerpoint module on their own with formulas that answer various pieces of the overall question. This module is the second in a set of three dealing with Isostasy.

The Earth's Shells - Density vs. Depth part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
In this module, students devise a way of graphically plotting the density variations vs. depth in the Earth. Students recreate spreadsheets shown in the Powerpoint module on their own with formulas that answer various pieces of the overall question. This module is the sixth in a series of six that examine the density of planets and rocks.


How Large is a Ton of Rock? -- Thinking about Rock Density part of Spreadsheets Across the Curriculum:General Collection:Examples
In this Spreadsheets Across the Curriculum activity, students calculate the volume and then edge length of a cube, and the diameter of a sphere, of a variety of rocks weighing a ton. As part of the probelm-solving activity, students build a spreadsheet to do the calculation, figuring out the cell equations as they go. The activity focuses on density and examines how this physical property varies with the kind and percentage of the minerals composing the rock. The rocks are: ice; vein quartz; gabbro; granite; porous arkose. The central quantitative issue is the weighted average. Students also need to apply their knowledge of the volume of spheres and cubes, and of course they get practice with unit conversions.

How Large is the Great Pyramid of Giza? -- Would it make a wall that would enclose France? part of Spreadsheets Across the Curriculum:General Collection:Examples
In this Spreadsheets Across the Curriculum module, students do an estimation calculation that sheds light on the size of the Great Pyramid. The calculation was first done by Napoleon during the Battle of the Pyramids in 1798. While members of his party explored the great structure, Napoleon relaxed at its base and did what is now known as a back-of-the envelope calculation. When his men returned, he announced that there was enough stone in the Pyramid to construct a wall around France. The students build a spreadsheet to recreate this calculation. They find that Napoleon had the magnitude correct. The module features the writing of the late I.B. Cohen, renowned scholar of the history of science, from his last book The Triumph of Numbers (2005). The module includes links to information about the Pyramid of Giza, the Battle of the Pyramids, Prof. Cohen, and why geologists and geographers know that there are 640 acres in a square mile.

How Far is Yonder Mountain? -- A Trig Problem part of Spreadsheets Across the Curriculum:General Collection:Examples
In this Spreadsheets Across the Curriculum activity, students work through Polya's problem-solving heuristic to find the distance of a peak using vertical angles sighted from a wagon train heading directly for the peak. They build a spreadsheet to do the calculation. The spreadsheet also calculates the height of the peak above the plain. After calculating the distance and height, the students "look back" (in Polya's terminology) and consider the reasonableness of their answer. They also work through another way of solving the problem to see if they get the same answer. In this second way, they use Excel to find a solution by trial and error. In the end-of-module assignment, they use their spreadsheet to examine the effect of uncertainties in measuring the angles on the calculated lengths. Module inspired by El Capitan in Guadelupe National Park, which is discussed in one of the links. Geology of National Parks collection.

Earth's Planetary Density: Constraining What We Think about the Earth's Interior part of Spreadsheets Across the Curriculum:General Collection:Examples
Spreadsheets Across the Curriculum module. Students build spreadsheets to forward calculate the Earth's aggregate density from combinations of densities and thicknesses of the Earth's four shells.

Density of the Earth - How to Solve It part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
This module addresses the problem of determining the density of the Earth and invites the student to figure out how to solve the problem. The module utilizes the four-step process developed by George Polya in his book How to Solve It in 1957: 1) Understanding the problem, 2) Devising a plan, 3) Carrying out the plan, and 4) Looking back. This module is the first in a series of six that examine the density of planets and rocks.

Density of rocks - How large is a ton of rock? part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
This module addresses the problem of how to determine the size of a ton of rocks of a given composition and invites the student to figure out how to solve the problem. Students are asked to recreate spreadsheets shown in the Powerpoint module on their own with formulas that answer various pieces of the overall question. This module is the third in a series of six that examine the density of planets and rocks.

Density of Rocks - Some Applications part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
This module studies some applications of knowing the density of rocks. One set of applications involves the: stress, strength, and factor of safety for a rock roof resting on one or more columns in an underground room. A second set of applications involves the normal and shear stresses, cohesion force, and inclination angle for a slab of rock resting on an inclined surface. Students recreate spreadsheets shown in the Powerpoint module on their own with formulas that answer various pieces of an overall question. This module is the fourth in a series of six that examine the density of planets and rocks.

The Floating Lithosphere - Isostasy part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
This activity lays the mathematical underpinning for studying isostasy in the Earth. Students numerically and then analytically determine the relations governing the depth of compensation in a variety of situations including a block of ice floating in water. Students recreate spreadsheets shown in the PowerPoint module on their own with formulas that answer various pieces of the overall question. This modules is the first in a set of three exploring isostacy.

The Floating Lithosphere - Cross Section of North America part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
In this module, students calculate the pressure at the depth of compensation along a cross section of North America. Students recreate spreadsheets shown in the Powerpoint module on their own with formulas that answer various pieces of the overall question. This module is the third in a set of three modules dealing with isostasy.

Kepler's Third Law - The Equation part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
In this module, students try various ways of plotting sidereal period vs. orbital radius and discover the simple power-law relationship of Kepler's third law. Students recreate spreadsheets shown in the Powerpoint module on their own with formulas that answer various pieces of the overall question.

Scaling Galileo's Solar System - Locating the Globes part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
In this module, students plot the position of the model planets on a campus map, after calculating their positions from the scaled orbits and periods and converting from polar coordinates to Cartesian coordinates. Students recreate spreadsheets shown in the Powerpoint module on their own with formulas that answer various pieces of the overall question. This module is the fourth in a series of four on the Galilean Solar System.

Scaling Galileo's Solar System - Size of the Globes part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
In this module, students determine the sizes of the various planets in the solar system scaled such that the orbit of Saturn fits on campus. The students also compare the planet sizes, given the scale, to the grain sizes of different sediment types. Students recreate spreadsheets shown in the Powerpoint module on their own with formulas that answer various pieces of the overall question. This modules is the second in a series of four on the Galilean Solar System.

How Large is a Ton of Rock? part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
One of a collection of PowerPoint/Excel modules designed to reinforce quantitative skills in geologic context. Students build a spreadsheet to calculate the edge length of cubes and diameter of spheres of various rocks weighing a ton. The rocks include ice, vein quartz, gabbro, granite and porous arkose. The calculation starts with the abundance and density of the minerals composing the rocks.

Westward Ho! How Far is Yonder Mountain part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
One of a collection of PowerPoint/Excel modules designed to reinforce quantitative skills in geologic context. Students build a spreadsheet to calculate the distance of a peak using vertical angles sighted from a wagon train heading directly for the peak. The spreadsheet also calculates the height of the peak above the plain.

The Earth's Shells - Thicknesses and Densities part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
This module explores the combination of densities and shell thicknesses that produce an aggregate density of the Earth of 5.5 g/cm3. Students recreate spreadsheets shown in the Powerpoint module on their own with formulas that answer various pieces of the overall question. This is the fifth module in a series of six that examine the density of planets and rocks.

Scaling Galileo's Solar System - Times part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
In this module, students calculate how long it takes for planets and moons to complete their orbits, and how fast they are going, in a scale model solar system, in which Saturn, Galileo's outermost planet, takes one day to circle around campus. Students recreate spreadsheets shown in the Powerpoint module on their own with formulas that answer various pieces of the overall question. This module is the third in a series of four on the Galilean Solar System.

Teaching Method Module

Teaching with Spreadsheets Across the Curriculum part of Pedagogy in Action:Partners:Spreadsheets Across the Curriculum:Teaching with SSAC
Len Vacher, University of South Florida, Tampa Ask students a quantitative question in non-mathematics context -- a question that requires consideration of numbers, tables or graphs, and/or a calculation or ...


Events and Communities

Infusing Quantitative Literacy into Introductory Geoscience Courses Workshop Participants: Leader

Improving the Quantitative Training of Earth Science Graduate Students Participants

Writing with Numbers Workshop Participants

NSF Projects Supporting QL Education Participants