Initial Publication Date: August 12, 2012
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.

Physical Geology
at University of Wisconsin-Richland

Implementor(s): Norlene Emerson
Enrollment: 20-24
Anticipated Start Date: Sept 4, 2012 (Semester)

Challenges to using math in introductory geoscience

UW-Richland is a freshman/sophomore campus of the University of Wisconsin System. Many of our students are first-generation college students. Most of our students will obtain an Associate of Arts & Science degree and then will transfer to one of the UW 4-yr campuses to complete their Bachelor's degree. In general, the majority of students take Physical Geology to fulfill the lab science requirment for their AA&S degree. Many of our students enter underprepared for college-level course work and need to be placed in remedial math courses. There are no pre-requisites for Physical Geology and this means that I must spend a certain amount of class time teaching basic math skills needed to successfully complete the quantitative labs and activities associated with an intro geology course. At the same time, I am challenged to maintain a high-level of course content so that students who are geology majors are well prepared to take advanced geology courses at their transfer schools. 

I am the only geology faculty on our campus and thus the only person who can readily tutor students when they need help with lab assignments and homework. I believe that "The Math You Need, When You Need It" will provide much needed assistance to students who need to "brush up" on their basic math skills and this will allow me more time to show students how the math is applied to geological situations.

More about your geoscience course

GLG 101:Physical Geology is a 5-credit lecture/lab course that serves as a general education lab course for non-majors as well as a basic core course for majors. The course is designed with lecture 3 times a week for 50 minutes each and two 2-hour labs per week. Students often report enrolling in Physical Geology because they perceive that there will be little math involved and therefore it will be an "easier" science course to take compared to the other science disciplines offered on our campus. As the only geology instructor on campus, I am solely responsible for all aspects of the course – lectures; lab prep, delivery, and cleanup; as well as all grading and assessment. TMYN will serve as a valuable resource for students both for pre-lab preparation and again later as review of concepts.

Inclusion of quantitative content pre-TMYN

Quantitative content is incorporated into GLG 101 both in lecture assignments and in lab work. Basic quantitative concepts are introduced during lecture and then further more in-depth problems are assigned during lab sessions. During labs, I have an opportunity to spend more one-on-one time with students who need extra help. Students are encouraged to seek out additional help from me during office hours or whenever I am not teaching another course. My goal for implementing TMYN will be to reduce the time currently needed in class to teach the math concepts necessary to perform the required quantitative tasks in labs and allow my students to delve deeper into the geological applications of those math concepts.

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

  • Unit Conversions (Introduction, Distances on Maps, Dating, Tectonic Rates)
  • Rearranging Equations (Density, Velosity, Isostasy)
  • Radiometric Decay (Determing Age of Events, Rocks, Minerals)
  • Slopes (Topographic, Water Table, Glacial, Stream)
  • Graphing (Flood recurrance, Dating, Tectonics, Earthquakes, Slopes)

Strategies for successfully implementing The Math You Need

To help my students improve their quantitative skills I intend to use five modules of The Math You Need in my Physical Geology course. I will implement a pre-test of math skills and introduce The Math You Need modules during the first week of class. Modules will be assigned to be completed outside of class prior to the class/lab in which those content areas will be used. Students will have one week to complete individual modules prior to the associated lab that contains the quantitative skill in the module. Students will be encouraged to seek help from me during my office hours should they require assistance while attempting to complete a module.

The modules will be used multiple times during the course in order to initially reinforce the skills and later to build student confidence and stress the importance of these skills in geology and their lives. Students will have the choice of reviewing by simply retaking the end of module quiz or reviewing the module depending on their need at the time. The beginning of the class/lab period in which the module is due will be used to go over any questions that were not answered prior to class. If an individual student needs to review a module, I will ask them to try one of the practise problems and hand in a hardcopy to show me they have completed the task. A few sample problems will be given as either a Think-Pair-Share to make sure everyone is ready for the class/lab and then the regularly scheduled activity will begin.

To encourage full participation by the students in The Math You Need modules the end of module quizzes will count for 3% of the students' final semester grade. Additionally, similar style questions to those on the end of modules quizzes will appear on unit exams. A post-test of math skills will be given during the 14th week of the semester.


Reflections and Results (after implementing)



course syllabus (Acrobat (PDF) 407kB Aug11 12)