Paper No. 6
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:00 PM
IMPROVING THE QUANTITATIVE SKILLS OF INTRODUCTORY GEOLOGY STUDENTS AT A LARGE URBAN COMMUNITY COLLEGE
In Fall 2011, students in a physical geology class at Austin Community College used math tutorials from “The Math You Need, When You Need It” (TMYN) project to address deficiencies in quantitative skills. Most students in the course are non-science majors, many of whom are either “math phobic” or haven’t applied mathematics in many years. A number of students had selected physical geology to satisfy their science requirement with the expectation that the course won't include quantitative work. Like most introductory geology classes, skill levels ranged from students co-enrolled in developmental mathematics who were unprepared to use the simplest of equations, to students who had completed calculus. This wide distribution in competencies is a serious instructional challenge in the laboratory, where students must perform unit conversions, calculate rates and gradients, and rearrange algebraic equations. Prior to the implementation of TMYN, instructional time was often sacrificed to teach basic math skills. To devote less in-class time to teaching math skills, students were given TMYN modules as asynchronous pre-lab assignments designed to introduce math concepts prior to their use in a laboratory exercise. In each module, students demonstrated mastery by completing online quizzes that factored into their final grade. Students rated the utility of each module in preparing them for their laboratory exercise. Ratings ranged from 88% for the most helpful module to 60% for the less useful one, with an average helpfulness of 77%. Multiple assessments indicated that students retained their math skills throughout the class, which may translate to improved performance in other courses. Finally, anecdotal student feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Several of the students had been out of school for some time, and were grateful to have the opportunity to brush up on their math skills outside of the laboratory. These promising initial results justify the continued use of TMYN in geology courses, and potentially its utilization by other sciences.