Math You Need > The Math You Need, When You Need It > Implementation Plans > Physical Geology (GEOL 1403) at Austin Community College
This page is designed to provide a guide to a planned implementation of The Math You Need, When You Need It. It will change as the implementation proceeds at this institution. Please check back regularly for updates and more information.

GEOL 1403 - Physical Geology
at Austin Community College

Implementor(s): David Froehlich
Enrollment: 24 each
Anticipated Start Date: Fall 2011? (Semester)

Challenges to using math in introductory geoscience

Austin Community College is a large urban community college with a very diverse student population. The school itself consists of 8 different campuses spread over 2 counties (soon to be 10 campuses in 4 counties) and serving a 7 county, 7100 square mile area ACC Factbook with demographics. As such the students vary widely both by campus and by time of class. Our students are predominately transfer oriented with local 4 year institutions as the primary transfer partners. This class and Historical Geology are mixed major/non-major classes and must serve both the requirements for the few (maybe 1 or 2 per class) geosciences majors as well as serving the basic science needs for the non-majors. Among the non-majors, geosciences is often the default science for the science and math-phobic. These non-majors often come in with little or no math skills and are often under the impression that math will not be involved. Consequently, the students have a wide range of abilities with the low end having little understanding of graphing, metric units or conversions, or ability to reason scientifically. I see TMYN as a way to bootstrap the math content and integrate the math more into the curriculum.

More about your geoscience course

This class is a general physical geology, based on plate tectonics and geosystems with the obligate identification of rocks and minerals in lab. We teach 12-14 sections (class size of 24) of this course per semester at 5 different campuses. It is the first in a two semester series required by the geology associates degree. A relatively small proportion of our students subsequently take the historical geology follow on course (3-4 sections each semester). I teach geology sporadically (as I can get time from my biology load) but the full-time geology faculty are teaching 1 or 2 sections each per semester with about half of our sections taught by adjuncts. We all have the same problems, although with varying intensity because of differences between campuses and by time of day. Lab is often the place that math is encountered by the students. At my institution the class sizes are small, but I have no help in lab so there are limits to how much individual help I can provide.

Inclusion of quantitative content pre-TMYN

In my version of the class I often have assumed that students have the requisite math skills when the various labs are written and presented. This often leads to unnecessary angst among the less prepared students. I have often had to hold their hands individually. Our labs include calculation of plate tectonic rates, graphing of radiometric dates, calculation of stream or subsurface hydrologic gradient, density, and various topographic map activities. Often teaching math in lab to those who are finding it challenging. Limitations to how much I can do individually.

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


  • Graphing

  • Unit Conversions

  • Rearranging Equations & Rates

  • Hypsometric Curve

  • Slope & Topographic Maps

This list may be a bit ambitious - especially since I am planning on front-loading many of these modules - given time constraints between now and the beginning of the fall semester (late August) this may have to be paired down a bit.

Strategies for successfully implementing The Math You Need

I am looking at front-loading many of the TMYN modules in the early parts of the semester. This may not be ideal, but looking at the tools and skills needed within these early labs, I see that I need them in most of my labs. I plan on using the modules as assigned homework that is graded (probably collectively the modules will count less than 10% of their lab grade). I am currently thinking in terms of 5 questions in each assessment so that the assessments themselves are not too time consuming for the students. I am planning on introducing the mathematical ideas and then reference them each time they reappear with reminders that they can go back to the modules to brush up. Given time constraints between now and the start of the Fall semester, the number of modules used and the degree with which I assess each module may have to be adjusted. It may make more sense to start with a few of the modules and then add more next Spring.

Modules Used

Density - used as an easy introduction into the modules, how to use them, and as potentially a module that the students can succeed at so that they dont get discouraged. This module will be reintroduced when I then start with mineral properties.

Graphing - used as the second introduction as well as the first more serious module and because the skills needed are ubiquitous - reading points off a curve fits well with the next lab where they are asked to plot an epicenter from three seismic traces.

Unit Conversions - having introduced them slowly - the hammer now falls. This will coincide with some serious problems in the lab requiring them to determine travel times and magnitudes and next lab will start to have them convert plate tectonic rates.

Rearranging Equations & Rates - this is the next serious step and I want to focus on the rates because it is used in the lab that day, but I need the concepts of rearranging equations somewhere in the first few weeks. I may not have them do the assessment for rearranging equations (this may not be ideal but I didn't want to load them down with two assessments in the same lab). I may want to drop the rearranging equations module from the modules since it is not intimately related to the concepts covered in the labs (the concepts

Hypsometric Curve - I have not used this curve intensively in discussing plate tectonics but I like this particular module and it reinforces both the graphing ideas as well as flows into the other aspects associated with my plate tectonics lab. I may also have them review this when we talk about oceans near the end of the semester. This would be the easiest module to drop and potentially the one that adds the smallest upside since the information is also covered in the plate tectonics labs that currently exist.

Slope & Topographic Maps - after a significant gap, I come back to the modules when I start looking at contours and mapping. I will initially have an assessment dealing with slopes, probably an assessment associated with topographic maps, and then probably have a separate assessment when I reintroduce/review the slope/topo material when I have a lab on streams.

Suggested Lab Calendar Fall 2011

August 22 (Mon) Intro to TMYN and TMYN Density

August 24 (Wed) Safety, Geography, TMYN Graphing

August 29 (Mon) Earthquakes, TMYN Unit Conversions

August 31 (Wed) Plate Tectonics, TMYN Rearranging Equations (?no assessment) & Rates

September 7 (Wed) Plate Tectonics 2, TMYN Hypsometric Curve

September 12 (Mon) Mineral Properties, review of TMYN Density

September 14 (Wed) Mineral ID

September 19 (Mon) Mineral ID, Sample Quiz, Rock Cycle

September 21 (Wed) Quiz 1

September 26 (Mon) Igneous Rocks

September 28 (Wed) Sedimentary Rocks

October 3 (Mon) Metamorphic Rocks

October 5 (Wed) Rocks continued

October 10 (Mon) Rock ID Review, sample quiz

October 12 (Wed) Quiz 2

October 17 (Mon) Relative Dating

October 19 (Wed) Relative Dating

October 24 (Mon) Contour and Profiles, TMYN Slope & Topographic Maps

October 26 (Wed) Soils Field exercise

October 31 (Mon) Topographic Maps, review of TMYN Slope & Topographic Maps

November 2 (Wed) Geologic Structure

November 7 (Mon) Geologic Maps1

November 9 (Wed) Geologic Maps2

November 14 (Mon) Quiz 3

November 16 (Wed) Groundwater

November 21 (Mon) Streams and Erosion, Review of TMYN Slope & Topographic Maps

November 23 (Wed) Arid Landscapes

November 28 (Wed) Shorelines

November 30 (Wed) Oceans, review of TMYN Hypsometric Curve

December 5 (Wed) Glaciers

December 7 (Wed) Quiz 4

Results (after implementing)


Spring 2011 Syllabus without TMYN added (Microsoft Word 55kB Jul28 11)