Math You Need > The Math You Need, When You Need It > Implementation Plans > Oceanography at Los Angeles Valley College

Introduction to Oceanography
at Los Angeles Valley College

Instructor: Jacquelyn Hams
Enrollment: 35

Challenges to using math in introductory geoscience

The majority of the students enrolled in the Introduction to Oceanography classes at Los Angeles Valley College are non-science majors taking the course for transfer credit. The typical student population of a class on our campus is under-prepared and consists of students for whom English is a second language. Most of the students do not have the requisite math skills to successfully complete an introductory laboratory exercise or class activity that requires basic arithmetic or algebra.

TMYN represents an opportunity for students to practice math skills just prior to the activity or assignment and overcome the math anxiety exhibited by many students.

More about your geoscience course

Oceanography 1, Introduction to Oceanography, is a 3-unit lecture class that meets part of the natural sciences transfer requirement. The laboratory part of the course, Oceanography 10, is a separate 2-unit course. Students must have previously taken Oceanography 1 or be concurrently enrolled in Oceanography 1 to take the laboratory course.

I do not have TA's to help with the lecture or lab course, but our department does have a tutoring program and student workers. Tutors who are not enrolled on campus can assist with grading.

Inclusion of quantitative content pre-TMYN

The goal of using TMYN is to definitely increase the quantitative skills needed by students in introductory courses. Prior to TMYN, I spent approximately 30 minutes demonstrating conversion techniques for simple calculations (such as feet to meters) that were needed in class exercises and laboratory activities.

Students demonstrated a high degree of anxiety when I wrote formulas and calculations on the board and many insisted that they "could not do math".

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

Density: yes
Graphing: yes
Plotting Points: yes
Best Fit Line: yes
Topographic Profile:
Reading Points from a Line:
Hypsometric Curve: yes
Rearranging Equations: yes
Slopes: yes
Unit Conversions: yes

Strategies for successfully implementing The Math You Need

I plan to use the following modules: density, graphing, plotting points, best fit line, hypsometric curve, rearranging equations, slopes, and unit conversions.

The Hypsometric curve activity will be used first (the text has several oceanographic diagrams that require interpretation of hypsometric curves), followed by unit conversions, and the other modules. I plan to take students to the computer lab for an orientation to TMYN and make sure they can log in, take the practice quizzes, and take the assessments.

Students received two points for each module completed. The points were not extra credit, but part of the course grade. I devoted at least 30 minutes in the computer lab working with the students prior to assigning the assessment to ensure that the practice modules were completed.

Reflections and Results (after implementing)

Overall, I think the TMYN was successful.

For fall 2010, I am using TMYN in the Oceanography and Physical Geology laboratory sections only. Each laboratory meets for 3 hours once a week and I feel this allows sufficient time to use a module just before the students complete the laboratory exercise that contains the necessary quantitative skill.

Students completed an attitudinal survey regarding math at the end of the course and the results are presented below. I plan to administer a pre and post attitudinal survey for the fall semester to see if the students' perceptions regarding math change after using TMYN.

Math Attitudinal Survey (Acrobat (PDF) 40kB Oct5 10)

I used TMYN modules in the Fall 2011 Oceanography lab and in Spring 2012 in the Geology lab.

  • Successes/failures that you have had with TMYN. I find that using the modules during lab time and just prior to students completing the lab exercises is successful. I have the least success when students are required to complete the modules on their own at home.
  • What have you changed since the workshop? I have changed the number of modules I use by reducing the number to only those that are relevant to the lab exercise for that class period. Students easily become overwhelmed if they perceive too much math is required.
  • What will you change to try to address any difficulties you have faced? The unit conversion module has been and remains the most difficult for students. I will try different approaches to this module other than repetition because that has not worked. I plan to create questions to place in the library that may be more relevant to the lab exercises I assign in class.
  • What aspects of your planned implementation have you modified to help your students learn better or more effectively? My implementation model was to assign the module before the lab exercise and have students complete them during class time. This has been very effective since I have a 3 hour lab.
  • How do you think your modifications will aid student learning?

In fall 2012, I presented a poster presentation at the 2012 GSA annual meeting in Charlotte, N.C. documenting the progress implementing the MYN modules at Los Angeles Valley College. The poster presentation is below.

MYN Poster Presentation GSA 2012 (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 2.2MB Jan6 13)