Math rocks linking physical geology with a mathematics course to improve student learning
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Math Rocks! Linking Physical Geology with a Mathematics Course to Improve Student Learning. Mike Phillips, Geology Instructor Cheryl Hobneck, Math Instructor Illinois Valley Community College This presentation may be accessed at: http://www.ivcc.edu/phillips. The Courses.

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Math rocks linking physical geology with a mathematics course to improve student learning l.jpg

Math Rocks!Linking Physical Geology with a Mathematics Course to Improve Student Learning

Mike Phillips, Geology Instructor

Cheryl Hobneck, Math Instructor

Illinois Valley Community College

This presentation may be accessed at:

http://www.ivcc.edu/phillips


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The Courses

  • Physical Geology (with lab)

    • introductory, general education course

    • high rate of D’s, F’s, and withdrawals (typically around 25 to 30%)

  • Intermediate Algebra

    • prerequisite for college level math

    • math placement based on Accuplacer score

    • non-transfer course


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Identify Barriersto Student Success

  • Physical Geology

  • Methods: classroom assessment, discussions with counselors

  • Student background (Spring 2003)

    • 4/5 of the students had not taken a college-level lab science course

    • 3/4 of the students had not had a geology course (HS or college)

    • 3/4 of the students had not successfully completed a college-level math course


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The Link Between Math and Geology

  • Basic geologic concepts are often described using graphs and equations.

  • Understanding and completing lab exercises requires students to use math.

  • High math anxiety is a barrier to student success in geology & math.


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Math at IVCC

  • IVCC has mandatory placement testing

    • fall 2003: 72% tested below “college-level” (national average is around 80%)

  • Frustration for students and parents

    • students are “back tracking”

  • Developmental Math courses

    • build students’ skills to the college level

    • lab or lecture/lab combo

    • provides review of math concepts to be used in other courses


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Identifying Solutions

  • How can student needs be addressed?

  • Explored options through discussions with counselors, deans, other instructors

  • Two solutions were implemented for Physical Geology:

    • web-based assistance for all students

    • learning community for students


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Learning Communities

  • http://learningcommons.evergreen.edu/

  • “…classes that are linked or clustered during an academic term, often around an interdisciplinary theme, and enroll a common cohort of students.”


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Small cohort of students enrolled in large enrollment sections of linked courses and in cohort-only seminar.

Cohort of students are sole enrollees in designated sections of linked courses

All students are enrolled in team-taught program

images after: http://learningcommons.evergreen.edu/

Learning Community Structures


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Developing “Math Rocks!” sections of linked courses and in cohort-only seminar.

  • Applied to college’s Learning Community Coordinators

  • Added sections to schedule

    • assistance of Deans

    • advice of counselors

  • Discussed new LC with counselors (key!)


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Math Rocks! sections of linked courses and in cohort-only seminar.

  • Large Geology lecture (1/3 –1/4 LC)

  • Intermediate Algebra (mostly LC)

  • Geology lab section (LC only)

  • Seminar with the geology and math instructors (LC only)


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Sample Topics sections of linked courses and in cohort-only seminar.(LC Seminar)

  • Scale conversions

  • Graphing and rate calculation for ash clouds and plate motion

  • Drainage basin analysis

  • Cookie mining (economic geology)

  • Radiometric dating

  • Groundwater flow calculation


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Student Response sections of linked courses and in cohort-only seminar.

  • Student success

    • DFW rate 18% (28% for rest of class)

    • Note: cohort is presumed to be a higher risk for DFW

  • Student comments on Math Rocks! indicate that students

    • feel it improves their understanding of both subjects

    • enjoy working with and getting to know other students

    • like the extra attention


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Enrollment sections of linked courses and in cohort-only seminar.

n = 15


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Instructor Response sections of linked courses and in cohort-only seminar.

  • Gain insight into what our students are learning and expected to know

  • Able to observe the techniques of another instructor

  • Get to know the students better

  • Able to address student needs more effectively


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Keys to Success sections of linked courses and in cohort-only seminar.

  • Identification of beneficial links

    • instructors

    • division deans

    • counselors

  • Coordination & communication between instructors

  • Identification and registration of students by counselors

  • Support from administration


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Future Goals sections of linked courses and in cohort-only seminar.

  • Continue to revise seminar and course activities

  • Continue to examine scheduling with deans and counselors

  • Continue to work with counselors

  • Identify new LC opportunities


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Thanks sections of linked courses and in cohort-only seminar.

  • Math Rocks is supported in part by a Title III grant from the U.S. Department of Education

  • Math Rocks has received indispensable support from our counselors, Deans, and Vice President for Academic Affairs


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