Paper No. 125-12
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM
BUILDING QUANTITATIVE SKILLS IN THE GEOSCIENCES: AN EXAMPLE FROM UNDERGRADUATE PHYSICAL HYDROLOGY
California University of Pennsylvania (CalU) has experienced unprecedented growth in its Geology program over the last five years. But many incoming students choosing to pursue Geology do not have adequate quantitative skills to adapt quickly to the rigorous coursework. Rather than remove quantitative materials from the curriculum, however, we have made a concerted effort to raise students’ skill levels through increasing math requirements, as well as remediating within Geology courses in a science-based context. Hydrology is the first quantitative course in the Geology curriculum at CalU, and assumes a basic aptitude in Algebra and Physics and minimal familiarity with Calculus, but most students are still lacking in these areas by the third semester when most take the class. In order to maintain a reasonable pace of content learning, along with establishing the fundamentals of Hydrological analysis, it is necessary to remediate several quantitative skills to level the playing field and establish foundational skills for all class participants. For the past three years, CalU Hydrology students have used The Math You Need, completing quizzes as a part of their course requirements that focus on basic quantitative skills of unit conversions, scale, and rate calculations. The Math You Need incorporates discipline-specific questions and problems to present and test basic quantitative reasoning. While students recognize that the quizzes are “extra” work and in some cases the material is below their skill level, they have demonstrated no resistance to completing them. On the contrary, students appreciate the quizzes for review and practice with concepts. On average, students improved, measured by pre- and post-test scores, approximately fifteen percent. Lower-scoring students demonstrate large improvements in basic skills, many over thirty percent. Follow-up attitudinal surveys of the students reflect generally positive reviews about the quizzes and the skill remediation as part of class. Students have requested using The Math You Need in other Geoscience classes. For Fall 2013, a new implementation will be used in Geomorphology.