Initial Publication Date: January 25, 2013

This page is designed to provide a guide to a planned implementation ofThe 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.

General Oceanography
at SUNY College at Oneonta

Implementor(s): Todd Ellis
Enrollment: 50-75
Anticipated Start Date: August 24, 2010 (Semester)

About my institution

SUNY Oneonta is a primarily undergraduate institution (PUI) located in the Central-Leatherstocking Region of New York State, nearly halfway between Binghamton and Albany. It serves roughly 6,000 students, many of whom are planning to become teachers (as a former normal school). SUNY Oneonta also has a strong Earth and Atmospheric Sciences department, with 100-200 majors at any one time.

Challenges to using math in this course

I believe that the challenges of offering mathematics within the General Oceanography course at SUNY Oneonta are as follows:

  1. Too many students are taking general oceanography with the expectation that it will be an mathematically easier path and as such, the students often are weaker in math skills;
  2. Because my oceanography course is a large lecture course, it does not have time or space for labs that allowing students to work extended in-class exercises that utilize math skills. As a result, I tend toward qualitative discussions that lend themselves to "clicker questions", especially because I don't have an opportunity to learn where every student is with their math skills. I feel like this lack of quantitative skills up until now is a huge deficiency in the way I have structured the course.
  3. I do not have a TA, so grading large numbers of homework exercises by hand is something I am trying to avoid (desperately!).
  4. There is an enormous spread in the mathematical abilities in the students who take this course (see below).

More about your geoscience course

General Oceanography is the only Oceanography course currently offered at SUNY Oneonta. It has a prerequisite of Intro Meteorology, Intro Geology, or Intro Earth Science, each of which has different levels of mathematical skill development. It is a required course for nearly all of the Earth Science majors (maybe 30%) and the Earth Science education majors (70%) (adolescence education and elementary education). The education majors tend to have the least math in their background, while the geology and meteorology majors tend to have quite strong math backgrounds. Therefore, there is a large spread in mathematical skills, with limited opportunities to remediate students who lack certain skills or confidence in those skills.

General Oceanography is a 50-75 person class. The current pedagogical approach utilizes Angel as a CMS to disseminate lecture content, Twitter and Facebook to facilitate questions from students during and after class, and the use of Clickers to allow for formative assessment during class time itself (and to check attendance!). Think-Pair-Share exercises are planned for the coming semester as well.

Inclusion of quantitative content pre-TMYN

The course prior to TMYN does not explicitly use or train on mathematical skills. Some equations and many graphs do appear in the material, but I have not explicitly addressed skill development related to using these materials. It is my suspicion that my lack of explicit addressing these skills may be putting some students at a disadvantage. I have not explicitly addressed mathematical questions during exams in the past either. It is fair to say that prior to TMYN, quantitative skills have simply not been addressed.

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

  • Rates
  • Hypsometric Diagrams
  • Density
  • Slopes
  • Topographic Profile
  • Rearranging Equations

Strategies for successfully implementing The Math You Need

My implementation strategy will be generally as follows:
  1. Students will be assigned a module and asked to complete an assessment quiz on that material. If there is more than one module assigned, the assessment will include questions from all modules.
  2. In the next lecture after the due date, there will be a Think-Pair-Share question or two on the topics from the preceding module(s). The answer will be provided via a multiple choice clicker question.
  3. I will announce after the TPS exercise that, if students were still confused, that they are welcome to review the module again and contact the instructor if they have further questions.
I plan to implement TMYN following this timeline:
  • First day of class: Following the syllabus review and course overview, introduce TMYN by reviewing the Rates module as a class and by completing a 2 question quiz with the entire class that shows how WAMAP works. Students will be expected to complete a pre-test on their own within 48 hours. Students will get full credit if they attempt the test, and will get zero if they do not take it. Rates will come up throughout the semester, but at first it comes up during the plate tectonics section in Week 3.
  • Week 1: Complete the Hypsometric Diagram module prior to the third lecture. I will introduce this figure in class, and it will come up primarily during the first few weeks of the semester.
  • Week 4: Complete the Density module. These skills will be relevant to discussing the chemistry of water that week, and then will come up in the meteorology section and when talking about water masses and the general circulation.
  • Week 7: Complete the Slopes and Topographic Profile modules prior to talking about the meteorology unit. I will also refer students back to places where we have talked about these topics before (bathymetry, plate tectonics, layers), and will continue to discuss it whenever contouring comes up.
  • Week 9: Complete the Rearranging Equations modules prior to discussing waves, where we manipulate equations to go between wavelength and wave speed and such.
  • Midterm I, Midterm II, and the Final Exam will include a selection of questions using these skills (roughly 10% of the questions will likely be designed to test these mathematical skills)
  • A Post-test, identical in content to the pre-test, will be required during the last week of classes. It will count as a
The assessments will be counted as 5% of their overall grade. The modules will all be 10 point assignments, and the pre- and post-test will be a 20 point assignment. The pre- and post-tests will be single attempt quizzes, and the modules will allow up to 5 attempts per question.

Reflections and Results (after implementing)