SAGE Musings: Using The Math You Need to Support Quantitative Skills

Eric Baer, Highline College
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published Oct 3, 2016

Do you have students who come to class with no idea of how to do basic conversions? Do you find that your in-class activities are stymied by teaching students the basics of how to calculate a rate? Maybe The Math You Need, When You Need It, aka TMYN, can help. TMYN is a collection of self-paced web-based modules that offer support for students to learn basic mathematical concepts within the context of introductory geoscience courses. Most people use it at a pre-lab or pre-class prep activity for students. It is a resource I developed with Jen Wenner of UW Oshkosh after getting frustrated by students not being able to access the geology material in my classes due to their innumeracy.

There are many modules including unit conversions, calculating density, multiple graphing modules, and rates. Each module has an explanation page and a set of solved sample problems. There is also on-line quizzing available, but you'll need an account - I can set this up for you. You can, of course, also provide students with quizzing on your own course management system if you would like.

There are a few things I have learned over my years of using and helping people use TMYN, and one is that you should use it in a way that fits your students and your situation - there is not one "best way." That being said, people generally have the greatest success if they use 3-5 modules in a course and if the quantitative concepts (e.g. unit conversions) come up multiple times during your course. It also seems to be important that this not be used in isolation -students need to see it as something that is part of the course and not just an add-on task. So telling students about it and why they need the skill seems to really increase the number of students that complete the modules.

I know many of the Change Agents have used TMYN. How did you use it? What worked well? What didn't?

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