Quantitative Skills > Teaching Resources > Activities > Continental Crust Mass Balance Calculation

Continental Crust Mass Balance Calculation

Jennifer Wenner, University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh
Author Profile

This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection

This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the process are

  • Scientific Accuracy
  • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
  • Pedagogic Effectiveness
  • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
  • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

For more information about the peer review process itself, please see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This activity has benefited from input from a review and suggestion process as a part of an activity development workshop.

This activity has benefited from input from faculty educators beyond the author through a review and suggestion process as a part of an activity development workshop. Workshop participants were asked to peruse activities submitted by others in their disciplinary group prior to the workshop. The groups then convened early in the workshop to discuss the materials and make suggestions for improvements. To learn more about this review process, see http://serc.carleton.edu/quantskills/review_processes.html#2004.

This page first made public: Oct 23, 2009


Quartz Monzonite outcrop - Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park This problem set is designed for a junior/senior level course and addresses several quantitative skills that are important in geochemistry and petrology. It involves conversions (i.e., cm to m), calculation and application of data to "real-life" problems in geology. It also requires that students use some higher order skills – including making connections to other courses they have taken in geology. I use it in my upper level geochemistry course as a homework assignment but it could also be used in petrology or as an in-class activity. The exercise requires some understanding of rock type, geochemistry and geophysics.

The exercise uses geochemical data for average quartz monzonite and diorite from the Mineral Mountains in Utah. The students do mass balance calculations and are asked to relate their calculations to continental crust formation.

Learning Goals

Context for Use

I use this exercise as a homework assignment in my geochemistry course (giving them 4 days to a week to complete it). It also addresses issues common in petrology and geophysics and might easily be adapted to either of those courses.

The exercise requires some familiarity with the concepts of density and buoyancy. It also requires some understanding of incompatibility of elements (distribution coefficients). By the time they take my course, students have taken Lithology (the introductory "rock" course at Oshkosh) – a key point since this exercise requires some familiarity of the IUGS classification scheme.

This exercise helps to lead the class into the second half of the course – isotopes and their uses in studying the crust, etc.

This exercise can be used in class as a group exercise. Working through the entire problem can take up to an hour, if you include a discussion of the implications of the calculations (see question #4 in Student handout).

Description and Teaching Materials

Student Handout (with questions, data and hints) (Microsoft Word 28kB Jul17 04) Continental Crust Mass Balance Work-through (Microsoft Word 28kB Jul15 04) Instructor Notes (Microsoft Word 25kB Jul17 04) Answers (Acrobat (PDF) 85kB Jul17 04)

Teaching Notes and Tips

References and Resources

Material for the classification of the residual "rock" was taken from Igneous Petrology , 2001, by Myron G. Best and Eric H. Christiansen. The classification scheme is from IUGS.

Several excellent tutorials on Excel can be found on pages designed by Robert McKay.

See more Activities »