Paper No. 125-2
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM
USING THE MATH YOU NEED TO CHANGE CLASSROOM DYNAMICS AND SUPPORT STUDENT SUCCESS IN INTRODUCTORY GEOSCIENCE CLASSES AT A TWO-YEAR COMMUNITY COLLEGE
Like many introductory geology classes, mine contain many students who are either underprepared with respect to math or outright math phobic. Students with poor math skills become highly stressed when faced with a math problem. Such stress often prevents them from completing the problem. Every year the topographic maps lab caused great consternation among my students. The lab activity involves calculating gradient, converting units, and using dimensionless scales. The students were particularly poor in unit conversion skills, a skill that is typically not considered a math objective but rather a science objective. Many of my students have not done unit conversions since middle school. As a result, the stress level in each class was palpable. The amount of time spent at the beginning of the lab period going over the math skills needed did not impact the students’ ability to do the lab successfully. At the end of my lecture, they still had considerable difficulty doing the problems. I found myself going from student group to student group teaching them individually and showing them how to complete the questions. I struggled with how to improve the students’ ability to do the math problems especially since I did not really know how to teach math. It was then that I discovered The Math You Need, When You Need It (TMYN). I began including the topographic map, unit conversion, and other appropriate TMYN modules into my class. The change in the class was considerable. While working on the topographic maps lab, the students’ reliance on me was significantly reduced. I found myself just walking around the room listening to them complete their assignment. Most of the questions involved the need for slight assistance with some aspect of a problem here or there. The stress level was much lower and I did not have students commenting in a panic that they could not do any of the problems or that they were hopelessly confused as had occurred in the past. Not only could they do the problems; but, what had taken three hours or more in previous semesters was now taking considerably less time. I found similar results when using other TMYN modules but the experience with the topographic maps and unit conversions modules were the most notable. The students could solve the problems and they had a reasonably good grasp of what they were doing and why.