The Math You Need, When You Need It
Math tutorials for students in introductory geosciences

by Dr. Jennifer M. Wenner, UW Oshkosh Geology Department
and Dr. Eric M. Baer, Highline Community College Geology Program

Jump to: Why? | How? | References and Resources | Funding Sources

What is The Math You Need, When You Need It?

A series of student-centered web-based quantitative topics that can be customized to and run concurrently with any introductory geoscience course

The Math You Need, When You Need It is a project that seeks to help remediate mathematics for introductory geoscience students. The Math You Need modules are student-centered, online, asynchronous tutorials that cover quantitative topics that faculty have deemed important to introductory geoscience courses. Each topic is presented in a geoscience context with student pages that (1) introduce the concept and present an algorithm for solving problems, (2) a set of practice problems with worked answers and (3) provide an opportunity to show what they learned with an online quiz. Instructors will also find a link to a page designed for them. The tutorials are designed to give students quantitative knowledge that they need, just before they will use it in a concurrent geoscience course. Recent implementations at a variety of institutions suggest, through pre- and post-testing, that the tutorials are effective at remediating mathematics. 

learn more here

Why use The Math You Need, When You Need It?

To support and promote students' quantitative learning without using valuable classroom time

The goal of the project is to support quantitative learning in such a way that instructors do not sacrifice valuable classroom time needed for geologic content. The modules provide online supplemental instruction to increase the quantitative literacy of all introductory geoscience students by recognizing their needs (review and/or remediation in mathematical techniques).

One of three main factors for improving student retention at both two- and four-year institutions is learning support including supplemental instruction -- What works in Student Retention, ACT, 2004

The web resources employ innovative instructional techniques steeped in best practices in mathematics and geoscience education, thereby generating modules that advance students' knowledge and understanding of mathematics across the geosciences curriculum. Combined with classroom examples of quantitative concepts in a geoscience context, these web resources can begin to address concerns about mathematics prerequisites and remediation, including difficulties with teaching large numbers of students from diverse backgrounds, course adaptation to students' preexisting knowledge, and student self-assessment and monitoring (NSF 2006; NRC, 2003; 2005).learn more here

How do I use The Math You Need, When You Need It?

Assess student needs using the pre-test, assign students appropriate modules and quizzes, and use quantitative examples in a geoscience context in your classroom

The modules are designed to be used in conjunction with a course in introductory geoscience (e.g., Physical Geology, Environmental Geology, Natural Hazards, etc.). A pre-test determines the modules that students need to complete to get up to speed. Students complete appropriate modules just before this material is covered in lab or class. Students are given appropriate background information and practice problems before they take a "quiz" to determine how well they learned the material. Because many concepts get revisited numerous times in an introductory course, quizzes are designed so that you can choose questions that are appropriate for your course. learn more here

References and Resources

The Teaching Quantitative Skills in the Geoscienceswebsite has activities, teaching techniques, student resources, and issues faced by instructors wishing to include quantitative skills in their courses.

The Journal of Geoscience Education runs a regular column on mathematics in the geosciences: Computational Geology 

Washington Center for Improving the Quality of Undergraduate Education has a page about quantitative literacy.

Funding Sources

Small NSF Logo

This project is supported by the National Science Foundation, Division of Undergraduate Education through awards

DUE-0633402 and DUE-0633755 and

Disclaimer:Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NSF.

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