Paper No. 41
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM


FARLEY, Martin B., Geology & Geography, University of North Carolina-Pembroke, Pembroke, NC 28372,

Early in my tenure at UNC-Pembroke, I discovered students had little facility in making graphs. This inspired me to add graphical exercises to classes to build understanding of graphmaking and skill in interpreting results. These exercises across multiple courses make up an organizing theme for me of “let's graph some data.” These exercises occur in both lecture and lab classes from general education to upper–level courses. Graphical exercises in general education non–major courses are justified because any student can find graphs useful no matter their career path. At UNC-Pembroke, the official audience for upper-level geology classes has been science education majors. It is critical for these teachers-in-training to be comfortable with graphs so they can use them in their own teaching. Primary goals of this theme are: 1) what is a graph; 2) what is it good for; 3) how different axis scales help; 4) how real data has uncertainty; and 5) how to fit lines by eye. Introductory level graphical exercises include radioactive decay, air pressure change with altitude, wave velocity, and daily tidal changes. More complex graphical exercises include dinosaur intelligence, flood recurrence, and graphic correlation. A number of exercises include non-Cartesian scales, such as logarithmic and square root. In addition to line fitting by eye, some exercises include determination of slope and intercept. Most exercises involve making graphs by hand, because I think it is important to understand methods without being controlled by the defaults of computer programs, especially Microsoft Excel. This is especially true because to get graphs to look right in Excel is often a complicated process. The ultimate goal is to make students adept in a key technique that facilitates their skill in interpreting information in the long run.