Math You Need > The Math You Need, When You Need It > Implementation Plans > Earth History at Adams State University

Earth History
at Adams State College

Instructor: Rob Adams
Enrollment: 10 to 15

Challenges to using math in introductory geoscience

The biggest perceived challenge is poor math preparation, which makes application of quantitative concepts a distracting challenge. The class population often has a range of math skills and the skills do not necessarily match math confidence. In other words, some students think they know math when they really do not know it well enough. A poorly-defined institutional challenge or obstacle may be a general faculty frustration with the low level of student math preparation, and a reluctance to be proactive on resolving the problem. The modules in TMYN provide opportunities to assess student math preparation in quantitative applications.

More about your geoscience course

GEOL 112 is an introduction to the geological evolution of the earth through time using basic principles of stratigraphy and paleontology. The course is the second core class in the BS and BA Earth Science, Geology degree tracks. Students are usually geology majors or minors, although many students with a completed GEOL 111, Physical Geology, prerequisite take the class as an elective. Laboratory work includes identification and classification of fossils and correlation of sedimentary environments. The lecture part of the course will address evolution of the continents, ocean basins, mountain systems and major life forms throughout the earth's history. Special emphasis is given to the North American continent and the description of the geology preserved in the rock record. The associated laboratory course will consist of practical exercises illustrating the various techniques and concepts that allow geologists to decipher the earth's history. TMYN modules taken as an assessment test indirectly assist in the quantitative materials encountered in lab. The course is delivered with a TA, when funding is available.

Inclusion of quantitative content pre-TMYN

Quantitative content in the lab portion of the class consists of basic statistics, roundness and sorting calculations, radiometric age determinations, geologic cross-section development, and map scale calculations.

Which Math You Need Modules will/do you use in your course?

  • Plotting Points
  • Topographic Profile when available
  • Rearranging Equations
  • Trigonometry
  • Unit Conversions:

Strategies for successfully implementing The Math You Need

Conduct an assessment of student math proficiencies for course quantitative concepts. A pre-test and a post-test will bookend the modules listed above. The test will not be graded and will be delivered as an opportunity for students to examine their own math skill sets. The test will be given early in the semester, with an open completion date.

Reflections and Results (after implementing)

The implementation intent was to give students an opportunity to brush up on their math skills, see why those math skills are important in geosciences, and to provide me with some assessment data on student success.
The result were not as good as I hoped, for several reasons:
  1. There were no grade stakes involved, participation was not graded
  2. Plenty to time was given to complete the modules, and the entire package
  3. The modules used were quite extensive
Better results might be realized if:
  1. Better promotion of why the assessment is given
  2. There are no assumptions of proficiency
  3. There is some grade assigned, some reward
  4. Better demonstration of how to use the system.


GEOL 112 Earth History syllabus (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 130kB Jul14 10)