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Integrating Sustainability and Quantitative Reasoning across the Disciplines. Caren Diefenderfer , Hollins University Eric Gaze, Bowdoin College Corri Taylor, Wellesley College. SISL: Sustainability Increases Student Learning.

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integrating sustainability and quantitative reasoning across the disciplines

Integrating Sustainability andQuantitative Reasoningacross the Disciplines

CarenDiefenderfer, Hollins University

Eric Gaze, Bowdoin College

Corri Taylor, Wellesley College

sisl sustainability increases student learning
SISL: Sustainability IncreasesStudent Learning

The National Numeracy Network (NNN) is one of the original 11 STEM disciplinary societies working together with the AAC&U to better prepare students for 21st century “Big Questions” that relate to real world sustainability challenges such as energy, air and water quality, and climate change.

it s a compelling urgent topic
It’s a Compelling, Urgent Topic
  • The planet and its inhabitants are under unprecedented stress.
  • Threats to life-sustaining ecosystems increase economic and food insecurity in all countries.
  • Climate change is disrupting the food chain, creating clean water scarcity, displacing humans and destroying communities, and threatening to increase governmental instabilities.
  • We have to educate about these issues and potential solutions to keep the planet livable.

“The challenge of living on this emerging planet is the challenge of our time, exempting no one, no organization, no nation, and no generation.”

-- David Orr

sustainability is an effective context
Sustainability Is an Effective Context
  • …For using high impact teaching practices(e.g., inquiry-driven, problem-based learning; service learning; cooperative learning).
  • …For teaching key disciplinary-based concepts (in math, geology, chemistry, biology, physics, economics, sociology, psychology…)
  • …For teaching “Essential Learning Outcomes”:, including communication skills, critical thinking, information literacy, ethical action, and of course, quantitative reasoning.
why quantitative reasoning
Why Quantitative Reasoning?

QR focuses on the hands-on use of logic, statistics, and math to solve authentic problems in context-rich settings across a wide array of fields

qr competencies for courses careers every day life decisions
QR Competencies for Courses, Careers & Every-Day-Life Decisions

* Reading and understanding quantitative info in graphs, tables, etc.

* Interpreting quantitative info and drawing appropriate inferences

* Solving problems using logic, math, statistics

* Estimating answers and checking for reasonableness

* Communicating quantitative information: verbally, graphically, numerically

* Using and creating mathematical or statistical models and recognizing their limitations

both sustainability and qr are
Both Sustainability and QR Are…
  • Relevant to the real world, sustaining student motivation and enhancing learning and retention.
  • In demand by students in selecting colleges and coursework.
  • Fundamental in attracting and retaining students in important STEM fields.
  • Valued by today’s employers.
  • Needed to address the “Big Questions.”
qr sustainability a natural pairing across the curriculum
QR & Sustainability: A Natural Pairing Across the Curriculum

QR topics

  • Comparisons: ratios, percentage change
  • Large and small numbers
  • Central tendency and variation
  • Linear and exponential models
  • Unit conversions
  • Estimations


  • Climate change
  • Biodiversity
  • Energy sources and usage
  • Food, water, global commons
  • Waste reduction
  • Human Population
  • Personal decisions about resource uses
sustainability qr at all levels of the curriculum
Sustainability & QRat All Levels of the Curriculum

Not only in…

semester-long group projects

in upper level courses

in Environmental Studies,

although these opportunities for

advanced work are important, too…

more importantly for wide impact sustainability in intro level courses
More Importantly for Wide Impact: Sustainability in Intro-Level Courses

Sustainability examples that use QR are easy to swap into introductory-level STEM courses

easy to integrate
Easy to Integrate

Sustainability problems that utilize QR do not have to be an “add-on” to busy course

  • Sub in sustainability examples in lessons
  • Use sustainability themed problems on homework exercises
  • Use for class activities/projects
  • Use as case studies
  • Use in research or service projects on campus
let s fix the dissemination problem
Let’s Fix the Dissemination Problem

Sustainability education resources and QR resources exist, but many faculty are not aware of them.

agenda the rest of this workshop
Agenda: the Rest of this Workshop
  • Model of a classroom activity on QR & Sustainability – You are in role of students
  • Reporting out on that activity – as an educator, how did it work?
  • Coffee Break
  • Small group session: Brainstorming QR & Sustainability activities/projects/lessons
  • SISL resources: Overall and QR/Math
  • How to contribute to the SISL collection
your mission
Your Mission…
  • Working in teams of 3-4 persons, determine whether it makes sense to change the lightbulbs in your home from incandescents to CFL or LEDs.
  • What info do you need?
  • Make your case.
  • Demos with 60W

equivalents here.

want more time to develop qr sustainability projects
Want More Time To DevelopQR & Sustainability Projects?
  • Join us for a week at the beach!
  • USE Math at the Beach (Undergraduate Sustainability Experiences in Mathematics) is May 12-17 at Wallops Island, VA.
  • Corri Taylor (Wellesley) and Ben Galluzzo (Shippensburg) lead the second of their USE Math workshops. (First was USE Math on Campus – held in July 2013 at Shippensburg.)
  • Supported by NSF TUES funding and MAA PREP.
use math at the beach1
USE Math at the Beach

In this workshop, participants will explore the relationship between sustainability and mathematics “at the beach.” Participants will study current USE Math projects and identify sustainability topics that are applicable for use in their introductory mathematics classes (including College Algebra, Quantitative Reasoning, Introductory Statistics, Precalculus, and Calculus I). They will then work on creating new projects dealing with themes such as beach erosion, waterfowl diversity, marine animal populations, aquaculture, and more. Sustainability-focused educators, marine scientists, and other professionals will give presentations on new initiatives in resource management and lead field excursions through the Wallops Island National Wildlife Refuge. Participants will get dirty and wetwhile taking part in the excursions, and some activities will require participants to walk across wet, muddy, and sandy terrain. Following the intensive component workshop, participants will use the materials, evaluate their effectiveness, and prepare their projects for publication on the peer-reviewed USE Math website and for presentation at upcoming national meetings.