“The Math You Need” When Faculty Need It: Enhancing Quantitative Skills at a Broad Spectrum of Higher Education Institutions

Friday, 19 December 2014
Eric M Baer, Highline College, Physical Science, Des Moines, WA, United States and Jennifer M Wenner, Univ Wisconsin Oshkosh, Oshkosh, WI, United States
Implementation of "The Math You Need, When You Need It" (TMYN) modules at a wide variety of institutions suggests a broad need for faculty support in helping students develop quantitative skills necessary in introductory geoscience courses. Designed to support students in applying geoscience relevant quantitative skills, TMYN modules are web-based, self-paced and commonly assigned outside of class. They include topics such as calculating slope, rearranging equations, and unit conversions and provide several applications of the mathematical technique to geoscience problems. Each instructor chooses modules that are applicable to the content in his/her individual course and students typically work through the module immediately before the module topic is applied in lab or class. Instructors assigned TMYN modules in their courses at more than 40 diverse institutions, including four-year colleges and universities (4YCs) that vary from non-selective to highly selective and open-door two-year colleges (2YCs). Analysis of module topics assigned, frequency of module use, and institutional characteristics reveals similarities and differences among faculty perception of required quantitative skills and incoming student ability at variably selective institutions. Results indicate that institutional type and selectivity are not correlated with module topic; that is, faculty apply similar quantitative skills in all introductory geoscience courses. For example, nearly every instructor assigned the unit conversions module, whereas very few required the trigonometry module. However, differences in number of assigned modules and faculty expectations are observed between 2YCs and 4YCs (no matter the selectivity). Two-year college faculty typically assign a higher number of modules per course and faculty at 4YCs more often combine portions of multiple modules or cover multiple mathematical concepts in a single assignment. These observations suggest that quantitative skills required for introductory geoscience courses are similar among all higher-education institution types. However, faculty at 4YCs may expect students to acquire and apply multiple quantitative skills in the same class/lab, whereas 2YC faculty may structure assignments to introduce and apply only one quantitative technique at a time.