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.

ESS 102 - Dangerous Planet
at Morehead State University

Implementor(s): Eric A. Jerde
Enrollment: 60 (in two sections)
Anticipated Start Date: August 2012 (Fall Semester)

Challenges to using math in introductory geoscience

Morehead State University is a comprehensive 4-year public institution with approximately 10000 students in eastern Kentucky. The majority of the students are drawn from the 22 counties surrounding Morehead, and about 50% are the first in their families to attend a college or university. The principal challenge is the generally underprepared students. ESS 102 is a General Education course, most students are not science majors, and thus simple arithmetic often seems to engender nervousness, although many seem able to do basic arithmetic with the aid of a calculator. Since geoscience is highly quantitative, there are many examples in this course (and in others in the Earth System Science) where the use of algebra and other mathematical skills such as graphing are essential.

More about your geoscience course

This course is one of the "distribution" courses for General Education. As such, it is one of three from which students can choose to fulfill a Natural Science component. The typical student is a freshman non-science major. There is no lab component, although all faculty teaching it have in-class, active-learning exercises that have the feel of a lab. We have no TAs or other helpers. The course, entitled Dangerous Planet, is concerned with imparting in students an understanding of the nature of natural hazards and mitigation strategies to reduce the likelihood of these hazards becoming natural disasters. This course has 6-8 sections of 35-45 students every semester in our department, with 4 separate faculty members teaching. While most sections are taught face-to-face, my sections are fully online.

Inclusion of quantitative content pre-TMYN

The Dangerous Planet course has some basic quantitative calculations in some exercises. However, the process of actually doing the math is often an obstacle to the students. In the past, much time has been spent going over the math concepts, instead of focusing on the actual geological content of the course. This has led to a disinclination to increase the sophistication of the concepts, as the math itself then becomes the limiting factor. I'd like to try to increase the level of the concepts or, alternatively, increase the understanding of why the quantitative material is there. So often, students blindly go through the calculations without understanding the reasons for this or that formula.

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

  • Unit Conversions
    • Plate Tectonics
    • Earthquakes
    • Stream Flow
    • Severe Weather, Hurricanes
    • Climate Change
  • Rates
    • Plate Tectonics
    • Stream Flow
    • Severe Weather, Hurricanes
  • Graphing
    • Stream Flow, Flooding
    • Climate Change

Strategies for successfully implementing The Math You Need

The sections that I teach are fully online, and consist of one "learning unit" per week (a total of 15). Three TMYN modules will be implemented early, with the basic math concepts that will be used throughout the semester. There will be one module introduced with each of the first three units, in the order: 1) Unit Conversions, 2) Rates, and 3) Graphing. This will introduce them in the week immediately preceding the first use of the math concepts in the course material. Rate conversions are applied to many of the topics in Tectonics, Weather, Earthquakes, and Streams and Floods. Rates are first used in Tectonics, and used again in discussions of Hurricanes and Stream flow. Graphing is necessary for work on Earthquakes, Stream Flow, and Hurricanes. Since the course is fully online, the modules will be introduced with the materials in each of the learning units. The course has been constructed to the Quality Matters standard, so students will already have been instructed where and how to look for content, assessments, and other activities of which the TMYN modules will be included. The pretest will be given along with the initial quiz on the syllabus in Learning Unit One, and the post-test will be given along with the mid-term exam given after Unit Five. The initial pretest will be worth only 9 points, and will be treated as extra credit. The post-test will be 27 points, while each of the three module assessments will be worth 12-15 points each. The total number of points in the course is around 915, so the total value of the TMYN assessments is approximately 8%.

Reflections and Results (after implementing)


Syllabus - Dangerous Planet (Microsoft Word 63kB Jul27 12)