2005 Salt Lake City Annual Meeting (October 16–19, 2005)

Paper No. 23
Presentation Time: 1:30 PM-5:30 PM


BAER, Eric M., Geology, Highline Community College, MS 29-3, P.O. Box 98000, Des Moines, WA 98198-9800, WHITTINGTON, Carla, Geology, Highline Community College, MS 29-3, P.O. Box 98000, Des Moines, WA 98198, BURN, Helen, Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education, University Of Michigan School of Education, 610 East University Avenue, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1259 and GILBERT, Lisa, Williams-Mystic, 75 Greenmanville Road, PO Box 6000, Mystic, CT 06355, ebaer@highline.edu

Although the geological sciences are fundamentally quantitative, the diversity of mathematical preparation and skills of students makes the successful use of quantitative concepts difficult in introductory level classes. Furthermore, the quantitative skills used in a typical introductory geology course are not contained in a single mathematics (or science) class that can be used as a prerequisite. We present Highline Community College's one-credit supplementary course that has been used to successfully solve these problems and improve student success.

The co-requisite course provides additional instruction on a just-in-time basis for the quantitative skills used in Physical Geology. While formally titled “Quantitative Geology,” it is nicknamed "MathPatch," and runs in parallel with the introductory-level course. MathPatch introduces the quantitative skills that are required for the class right before they are needed. Thus, students learn 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 teaching basic geological concepts.

We have taught the course successfully for four years, during which time retention in the geology course has been increased substantially, with a roughly one third reduction in attrition. In addition, because of the additional support, the amount and sophistication of the quantitative skills we use has increased markedly. Students master quantitative skills to a greater extent than previously, and less time in geology class is spent covering basic quantitative skills. In addition, the course, which was developed with mathematics faculty, has been effective in cross-fertilizing the curricula of both the mathematics and geology faculty.