published April 1, 2006

Whittier College Proposes "SENCERizing" Its Mandatory Introductory Math Course

Participants in our SENCER workshop at Whittier College were so inspired by the presentation of a team-taught SENCER course on population and statistics that they proposed adapting our college's mandatory introductory math course using the SENCER method.

This March, Whittier College held a SENCER teaching workshop with faculty from math, chemistry, sociology and business administration and the Director of Internships and Service-Based Learning. Whittier has sent teams to the Summer Institute and has long had a curriculum that emphasizes connections across the disciplines. But this was the first time faculty came together on campus specifically to discuss the SENCER model. We plan to do it again!

The workshop began with an overview of the SENCER mission and pedagogy, including a look at a couple of SENCER models (The Chemistry of Everyday Life and Nanotechnology) in some detail. We used (and highly recommend) the tutorial from Barbara Tewksbury's website, On the Cutting Edge (NAGT Workshops), to guide us through the development of a SENCER course.

Computer Lab

Two Whittier faculty members in math and sociology then discussed their team-taught class, "Population, Problems, and Policy," in which students in this class learn how to construct population models through an exploration of contemporary population issues and policies. This is a SENCER course par excellence. Students work in carefully constructed teams all semester on the development of their math skills through the

exploration and explanation of population statistics. The teams conduct their own research that they present as a final project at the end of the semester. Some of the research topics have included "Age Structure of Various Ethnicities in LA County," "Immigrants from Northern and Western Africa to France," "China and India: The Effect of Population Size on Economic and Political Policy," "Social Security to Immigrants from Mexico," and "Malaria: A Global Killer."

Upon learning about the "Population, Problems, and Policy" course, several mathematicians in attendance proposed the restructuring of the introductory math course. This class is required for all incoming students (sometimes without great enthusiasm).

All the workshop participants were inspired and stimulated to draft their own courses using a practice model of pedagogy that will help their students acquire the kinds of skills needed to be engaged in course material and in the world.