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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

- Physical Geology (with lab)
- introductory, general education course
- high rate of Ds, Fs, and withdrawals (typically

around 25 to 30) - Intermediate Algebra
- prerequisite for college level math
- math placement based on Accuplacer score
- non-transfer course

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

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.

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

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

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.

Learning Community Structures

- 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

/

Developing Math Rocks!

- Applied to colleges Learning Community

Coordinators - Added sections to schedule
- assistance of Deans
- advice of counselors
- Discussed new LC with counselors (key!)

Math Rocks!

- 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)

Sample Topics (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

Student Response

- 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

Enrollment

- n 15

Instructor Response

- 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

Keys to Success

- Identification of beneficial links
- instructors
- division deans
- counselors
- Coordination communication between instructors
- Identification and registration of students by

counselors - Support from administration

Future Goals

- Continue to revise seminar and course activities
- Continue to examine scheduling with deans and

counselors - Continue to work with counselors
- Identify new LC opportunities

Thanks

- 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