Some Approaches, Challenges, Implementations, and Possible Future Attempts in Teaching Quantitative Reasoning in Undergraduate Science Courses

Dominike Merle-Johnson, STEM-Physical Sciences, Montgomery County Community College-West Campus

In the past six and a half years that I have been teaching at two different institutions, I implemented at least two quantitative activities in Environmental Geology courses. One of the activities takes at least two, 2-hour class periods. This activity has been adapted and modified from a colleague (Kuhlman, n.d.) who gave me access to some of his activities, and consists of taking the students to a nearby creek and collect physical data of the creek to do a stream profile and calculate its discharge. I modified his activity by asking the students to measure water pH and salinity compare the data students collected with the data from the same creek upstream, published by the USGS.

Another quantititative activity I use is an adaptation from the Carbon Dioxide Exercise, by Richardson (n.d.), which I obtained from a former colleague. The activity is relatively simple to do, since the graphs are automatically made in excel as soon as the insert the data in the worksheet. I think that at least they get a better understanding about the learning goals of this activity are achieved, as they get good scores on the activity.

Earlier this month (April 2019), I found, slightly adapted, and implemented in my Environmental Geology students, Activities A, B and C of the Climate Change module from O'Reilly, Richardson, and Gougis (2017) published in the Eddie website. I decided to try this activity since it has both, current and past CO2, to be able to show students the anthropogenic role in the current climate change. I also did it since some of these students are somehow interested in the environment and exploring the possibility of pursuing environmental related jobs. Even though I had to explain step by step how to do the plots, find the trendline and the equation of the line on excel, the fact that I was guiding them saying aloud where to go on excel, and have a smart board in my classroom, helped in the process, as students were able to see how I do it. It seems that the learning goals were achieved, as students were able to see the evidence for the human-induced warming, carbon dioxide increase, and compare with the past CO2 values from ice cores. A week after the activity was completed, and for the purpose of this essay, I decided to ask the students during class what they think about the activities. They said the activities were good and helped them understand better climate change. I also asked them if they have any suggestions to make the activities better, and the only comments I received was that if the wording was different, they activities would be easier to understand. Wording activities in my experience, is probably one of the hardest challenges I have as an educator, sometimes taking me a lot of time to put it together and it seems that no matter if I think it is simple enough, some students still have issues understanding the information and what and the questions in the activities.

I will like to keep doing at least two quantitative activities per semester, in order for students to gain or improve their knowledge of quantitative data in accepting or rejecting hypotheses, as well as appreciate the value of this data to understand natural phenomena, and to appreciate the work scientists do to help understand better our universe. I think that most of the misconceptions and issues we have in our society today about the importance of science and scientists is in part, the lack of understanding of what the data shows, how reliable is, and how rigorously scientific data is acquired. This is why I am considering using next semester some activities of the Water Quality and Soil Respiration Modules in the EDDIE website and keep doing the Climate Change Module.

Kuhlman, R. (n.d.). Stream Profiling Group Project. Unpublished project.

O'Reilly, C.M., D.C. Richardson, and R.D. Gougis. 15 March 2017. Project EDDIE:
Climate Change. Project EDDIE Module 8, Version 1. Retrieved April 2019 from: Module development was supported by NSF DEB 1245707.

Richardson, R. (n.d.). Carbon dioxide exercise. Retrieved April 29, 2019 from:

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