Paper No. 125-8
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM

PROMOTING MATH SKILLS FOR LABORATORY EXERCISES: USING “THE MATH YOU NEED, WHEN YOU NEED IT” IN AN INTRODUCTORY GEOLOGY COURSE


MARTON, F.C., Department of Physical Sciences, Bergen Community College, 400 Paramus Rd, Paramus, NJ 07652, fmarton@bergen.edu
PHY 113 Geology is an introductory-level, lab science course that is a gen-ed offering at Bergen Community College (BCC). As such, the course is designed to be open to any student enrolled at BCC, without any prerequisites. As a community college, BCC serves a large (total enrollment ~17,000) student body that is diverse not only ethnically and socioeconomically, but also in terms of their educational background, thus many students are underprepared mathematically for the course. The lecture portion of the class is handled non-quantitatively, but students need to use mathematics during labs. In the past, I often found myself going over these concepts one-on-one with students during labs to help them with their understanding.

Since 2011, I have used “The Math You Need, When You Need It” (TMYN), a web-based series of modules that covers mathematical concepts used in the geosciences, giving the students who need help in these areas an opportunity to work on their skills outside of class. This allows me to concentrate on the scientific concepts during class. Prior to specific labs, I assign modules that the students work through on their own and, when ready, take a short, five question quiz on the topic. The scores are not part of their labs, but instead count as a small (10%) portion of their overall grade. Students in each class completed 60-80% of the modules of the five assigned modules and generally provided positive feedback on them. In order to assess how effective the modules are, each student is asked to take a pre- and post-test at the beginning and end of the semester, with questions on the assigned topics. Most students' post-test scores improved as compared with their pre-tests, but given that these assessments were voluntary, many students did not do both of them. Given the effectiveness of the modules and the students' positive reactions to them, I will continue to incorporate TMYN into my classes, seeking ways to improve student participation, as well as encourage my colleagues to use TMYN in theirs.