GEL 130 Earth Processes
Earth and Atmospheric Sciences (EAS)- Central Michigan University

Implementor(s): Maria Mercedes Gonzalez
Enrollment: About 60 per session
Anticipated Start Date: August 27 2012 (Semester)

Challenges to using math in introductory geoscience

Central Michigan University is a 4-years institution located in central Michigan. EAS department includes two main programs, Geology and Meteorology, with a great number of introductory classes oriented to newcoming students and no geology majors. The mayor challenges teaching these classes are: the big number of students that make very difficult to follow up every student problem when doing math. In general students are underprepared to handle basic concepts like unit conversion, x-y graph and map reading , calculations and the use the Scientific Notation. Since there is a big range of math skills among the students who take this class, some find it very difficult and others basically get bored. The use of TMYN in the class will help to all students, especially those who need to reinforce these skills prior to class so I could raise the bar in the uses and applications of math in geology and spend less time working on math concepts.

More about your geoscience courses

This is a University Program (UP) class with no prerequisite, student population range from freshmen to seniors. Earth Processes is part of the natural sciences group intended to have students exploring and examining natural phenomena in order to stablish basic principles concerning the material universe. Its approach includes observation, identification, description, experimental investigation and theoretical explanantion of processes. Simplified models of complex phenomena (Groundwater simulators, stream tables, density scales, etc.) are used to discover and stablish fundamental principles. Mathematics statements concerning those models permit quantitative predictions.

The class has a lab component that I teach together with the lecture, we meet for 110 minutes, twice a week and I am resposible for both lecture and labs. Some sessions may have a student TA who assist on basics tasks like passing handouts and assist students during lab activities, they do not teach.

Most of the students have a very busy schedule, taking many credits hours and working on one or two jobs and they can't come to neither regular office hours nor special study sessions I usually offers on Fridays. Working with these math modules will allow them to better manage their time and to be prepared for the specific labs where each module content will be applied

Inclusion of quantitative content pre-TMYN

Quantitative content is allways introduced with a geologic process, during lecture time as in class/ hands on exercise. Afterwards the class performs a lab activity and it may also be a Home assignment associated to it. Most labs and HA have a requirement of about 25% of writting, involving quantitative reasoning. In overall the lab component and hands on exercises represent 50-60 % of lecture time. My goal is to use TMYN as an extra help/ practice and to save class time towards lab work and interpretation insteade of using most of the class time working with students who struggle with simple math calculations.

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

Density: To be used with Igneous Processes

Rates: To be used with Plate Tectonics

Slopes:To be used with topographic maps, Stream porcesses and mass wasting processes

Unit Conversions:To be use with Topographic maps, Plate Tectonics and Surface processes in general

Strategies for successfully implementing The Math You Need

1. Incorporate the use tof the selected modules in the class syllabus and as part of the final grade for the class (Post test and module quizzes will represent 10 % odf the final grade for the class)

2. During the first week of the semester the class will do a pretest inclusding questions/ exercises from the selected modules: students will be required to take the test and will receive credit for completion (e .g.: completion 2 points; no completion: 0 point). Students will have one opportunity to complete the test.

3. Students will be reminded on the daily basis of how relevant these modules are, not only for their grade but to gain expertise on basic math skills, I personally expect them to feel more confident when doing labs since they have already completed the modules.

4. Each module will have a quiz associated to be completed for credit. Students will have up to 3 chances to re do each question. All quizzes are due before the lab that uses the quiz subject.

5. Some of the modules I selected to be worked at the beginning of the semester will be used in several opportunities, like unit conversions and slopes, students will gain confidentce and see how important these activies are for their learning process

Reflection and Results (after implementing)

Update: Fall 2012

Four TMYN modules were implemented in all 4 sessions of GEL 130 Earth Processes. Despite a few problems with the logging in process the experience was positive for both students and instructor.

Challenges presented: some students had difficulty getting into the wamap site, because they enrolled later and I couldn't t keep track of the new students or because they just dint follow instructions posted on Blackboard. Another difficulty was presented when doing some calculations and the final result was not taken as correct, I was able to modify the setting for these questions.

This first time I decided to allow students to take the quiz as many time as needed and give them full credit for it. Still a small percent of students failed on taking the quiz at all by the due date. I decided to reopen the quiz after the due date.

Through the semester I spent less class time explaining basic math skills and the students who still needed more work were able to come to my office and we worked one to one in specific areas. As a result, midterms and final exams showed a great improvement in the calculation areas, and I also noticed the classes finishing with a higher GPA average than normal.

Update Spring 2013:

I increased the number of modules to use and applied them to two sessions of GEL 130. The major change were that this time I allowed students to take the quiz multiple times but with some " penalty " in the grades" . I kept the due policy for quizzes as the beginning of the class/ lab where the subject would be used and again I found than several students failed (or "forgot") to take the quiz; in most cases were those who needed it the most.

This semester, the class was required to work with a lab manual and turn in several labs, the math work was great, students, in most cases, fully completed the task and showed increasing independence as the semester went by. I am planning on using TMYN again in the Fall 2013 semester and will increase the "in class awareness" of the use of the modules, and also will come up with questions tailored to my class goals to be included in the wamap quiz bank.


Earth Processes class Syllabus Fall12 (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 45kB Jul28 12)