at Bergen Community College
Implementor(s): Fred Marton
Enrollment: Two sections of 24 students each.
Anticipated Start Date: 9/7/11 (Semester)
Challenges to using math in introductory geoscience
I find that a good number of my students are underprepared mathematically for the course. As a community college, we serve a student body that is diverse not only ethnically and socioeconomically, but also in terms of their educational background, majors, and goals, with some students completing their Associates degrees and/or transferring to four-year colleges. Many of our students are required to take developmental math courses, but currently there is not any math prereq for the basic Earth science and physics courses. I have spoken with some of my colleagues about instituting such prereqs, but until/unless the department agrees to them and they are approved by the appropriate faculty committees, we have to address the situation as best we can in our classes. TMYN is one tool that we can use to help our students who do struggle with these concepts.
More about your geoscience course
Our geology course is an intro-level, gen-ed course that is designed to help fulfill students' natural science requirements. It is the only geology course (the other Earth science courses are Meteorology, Climatology, Astronomy, and Energy and Society) and there isn't a Geology major. It is a lab course that meets twice a week, three hours per session. Currently we have three sections, of which I teach two and the third is covered by an adjunct (no assistants). TMYN would come into play mainly during the labs, to help students understand not only how to calculate densities, spreading rates, etc., but also to help them understand the concepts behind them, which would be reinforced in the lecture portion of the course.
Inclusion of quantitative content pre-TMYN
When a mathematical concept such as density, plate velocities, or radiometric dating comes up, I give them what I hope is a basic background to the topic and work through some examples, sometimes using demonstrations (such as flipping coins for radioactive decay). I often find myself going over these concepts one-on-one with students during labs to help them with their understanding, though judging the amount of time I spend with them is difficult, given the that each student's math skills and experience is different. TMYN would allow the students who need help in these areas to work on their skills outside of class and allow me to concentrate on the scientific concepts of the labs.
Which Math You Need Modules will/do you use in your course?
- Unit Conversions (Introduction, Metric System/Measurement lab)
- Density (Metric System/Measurement, Minerals and Rocks labs)
- Rates (Plate Tectonics lecture and lab)
- Graphing (Earthquakes & Earth's Interior and Geologic Time lectures and labs)
- Reading Points from a Line (Earthquakes & Earth's Interior and Geologic Time lectures and labs)
Strategies for successfully implementing The Math You Need
As many of the students who take Geology, and other intro level physical science classes, do not have an adequate background in math, I will assign particular TNYN modules before specific topics (e.g., Rates before the lecture and lab on Plate Tectonics), so that the students will have an opportunity to review and practice the mathematical concepts that those topics require. As part of this process, the students will take the associated assessments at http://wamap.org/ which will be included, along with other activities, as part of the exercises portion of their grade (10%). In addition to the modules, the students will take pre- and post-tests to assess their improvements. During the first week of class I will use a computer lab session to introduce the students to TMYN (and other online resources) and ask them to complete the pre-test either then or by a specific date, depending on the amount of time available. The students will do the post-test on their own at the end of the semester. In both cases students will receive full credit for attempting the tests.