2014 GSA Annual Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia (1922 October 2014)
Paper No. 72-4
Presentation Time: 2:00 PM-2:15 PM

LEVELING THE QUANTITATIVE PLAYING FIELD WITH THE MATH YOU NEED, WHEN YOU NEED IT

WENNER, Jennifer M., Geology Department, Univ of Wisconsin Oshkosh, 800 Algoma Blvd, Oshkosh, WI 54901, wenner@uwosh.edu, BAER, Eric M.D., Geology, Highline Community College, Des Moines, WA 98198, and BURN, Helen E., Mathematics Department, Highline Community College, 2400 S. 240th Street, Des Moines, WA 98198-9800

Introductory geoscience instructors often find themselves teaching students with wide-ranging mathematical abilities, resulting from a variety of factors – anxiety, prior training, poor reading skills and disconnect between mathematical and geological language. Providing connections between quantitative problems and scientific context can be challenging for faculty who may feel the need to spend valuable classroom time teaching quantitative concepts rather than geoscience content. Whereas teaching basic mathematics to underprepared students may be necessary, geoscience faculty indicate that these activities may also lose the attention of higher performing students. To address these pedagogical dilemmas, we developed The Math You Need, When You Need It (TMYN), a collection of self-paced web-based modules that offer support for students to learn basic mathematical concepts within the context of introductory geoscience courses. We present results of a study of nearly 3000 students who used TMYN modules in conjunction with their geoscience courses at 37 colleges and universities. In each of the 106 courses, pre- and post-test scores indicate that 75% of students realized learning gains. Moreover, almost 65% of students who performed higher than the mean on the pretest improved their score with the use of TMYN. This study suggests that programs such as TMYN enable science faculty to free up classroom time to create authentic STEM environments that support students as they develop quantitative skills within the context of science. We argue that contextualized mathematical problem solving embedded in introductory science courses promotes transfer among disciplines (e.g., mathematics to geosciences) and efficiently removes some of the psychological barriers mathematics may present for students. The results of this study suggest that all students who interact with context-specific quantitative problems, such as those embedded in TMYN, can potentially improve their mathematical skills and that contextual learning boosts mathematical motivation and self-efficacy. Promoting transfer of skills from mathematics to science through contextualized mathematical problems serves to “level the playing field” for all students, regardless of an individual’s initial level of mathematical preparation.

2014 GSA Annual Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia (1922 October 2014)
General Information for this Meeting
Session No. 72
Supporting Student Success in Colleges and Universities I
Vancouver Convention Centre-West: 210
1:00 PM-5:00 PM, Sunday, 19 October 2014


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