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

Paper No. 23
Presentation Time: 6:00 PM-8:00 PM


WENNER, Jennifer M., Geology Dept 800 Algoma Blvd, Univ of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, 800 Algoma Blvd, Oshkosh, WI 54901, MANDUCA, Cathryn, Science Education Resource Center, Carleton College, 1 North College St, Northfield, MN 55057 and BAER, Eric M., Geology, Highline Community College, P.O. Box 98000, Des Moines, WA 98198, wenner@uwosh.edu

Numeric geologic time is an increasingly important concept for addressing big picture questions in geoscience. As a result, geoscience students must have a good grasp of the quantitative underpinnings of geochronology early in their academic careers. However, introductory textbooks may gloss over the subject and some geoscience instructors are not well versed in geochronology's more quantitative aspects. To address these challenges, we present pages within DLESE's Teaching Quantitative Skills website (serc.carleton.edu/quantskills) that provide pointers for quantitatively teaching geologic time and radioactive decay in introductory geoscience and offer instructors easy to use exercises that can be downloaded and modified as needed.

Teaching numeric time involves complex mathematical concepts including the understanding and manipulation of equations, numbers far bigger than many first-year college students have thought about or can intuitively grasp, and advanced quantitative concepts such as exponential decay. Having students make mathematical connections between radiometric decay and geologic time can be a challenge, but offers an important opportunity to reinforce mathematical skills by using them in a relevant geologic context.

Several pages within SERC's Teaching Quantitative Literacy website (serc.carleton.edu/quantskills/methods/quantlit) are designed to make introducing geologic time in a quantitative manner painless. The website provides pages intended to help with both fundamental mathematical concepts (big numbers and exponential decay) and the geologic context (radioactive decay and geologic time) in which those concepts are presented. Mathematical concepts are presented using the “good ideas” conceived during a joint Math-Geoscience NAGT Workshop in 2002 (serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/quantskills02) with links to mathematical help for both faculty and students. Within geologic context pages, we introduce difficult and important concepts and give pointers and examples for helping students understand underlying concepts. Throughout the site, there are links to ready to use, downloadable activities, exercises and laboratory assignments in the hope that instructors will find it easy to incorporate quantitative aspects of time into their courses.