MATHPATCH- A “JUST-IN-TIME” APPROACH TO TEACHING QUANTITATIVE SKILLS IN INTRODUCTORY COURSES
BAER, Eric M.1, BAER, Emanuela A.2, BURN, Helen3, GILBERT, Lisa A.4, and WHITTINGTON, Carla1, (1) Geology, Highline Community College, P.O. Box 98000, Des Moines, WA 98198, ebaer@hcc.ctc.edu, (2) Department of Geology, Shoreline Community College, 16101 Greenwood Ave N, Seattle, WA 98133, (3) Department of Mathematics, Highline Community College, 2400 S. 240th Ave, Des Moines, WA 98198-9800, (4) School of Oceanography, Univ Washington, PO Box 357940, Seattle, WA 98195-7940

The geological sciences are fundamentally quantitative. However, the diversity of mathematical preparation and skills of students makes the successful use of quantitative concepts difficult in introductory level classes. At Highline Community College, we have introduced a one-credit supplementary course to give students supplemental instruction on a just-in-time basis for the quantitative skills used in the course.

The course, formally titled “Quantitative Geology” has been nicknamed "Mathpatch," and runs in parallel with the introductory level course. Mathpatch teaches the quantitative skills that are required for the class right before they are needed. Thus, students learn only the skills they need and have a chance to apply them immediately afterwards. Topics covered include complex-graph reading, unit conversions, large numbers, scientific notation, scale and measurement, estimation, powers of 10, and other fundamental mathematical concepts used in basic geological concepts.

We are currently in the third quarter of a pilot project. The course to date has been highly successful. Retention in the geology course has been increased substantially, from 75% to >90% amongst students choosing to take the supplemental class. Students master the quantitative skills to a greater extent than previously, and less time in geology class is spent covering basic quantitative skills. An attitudinal study is being conducted presently to assess whether students have a more favorable response to mathematics as a result of this approach to teaching applied mathematics. In addition, the course, which is taught by mathematics faculty, has been effective in cross-fertilizing the curricula of both the mathematics and geology faculty.

In the future, we anticipate making the class a co-requisite that can be challenged by students entering the course with sufficient skills and perhaps expanding the project to other classes and disciplines.

Cordilleran Section - 98th Annual Meeting (May 13–15, 2002)
Session No. 6
Innovations in Earth Science Education: Dorothy LaLonde Stout Memorial Session
LaSells Stewart Center: Construction/Engineering
8:00 AM-12:00 PM, Monday, May 13, 2002
 

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