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Keywords

quantitative literacy, geosciences, pedagogy, web resources, entry-level

Abstract

We present the case for introductory geoscience courses as model venues for increasing the quantitative literacy (QL) of large numbers of the college-educated population. The geosciences provide meaningful context for a number of fundamental mathematical concepts that are revisited several times in a single course. Using some best practices from the mathematics education community surrounding problem solving, calculus reform, pre-college mathematics and five geoscience/math workshops, geoscience and mathematics faculty have identified five pedagogical ideas to increase the QL of the students who populate introductory geoscience courses. These five ideas include techniques such as: place mathematical concepts in context, use multiple representations, use technology appropriately, work in groups, and do multiple-day, in-depth problems that place quantitative skills in multiple contexts. We discuss the pedagogical underpinnings of these five ideas and illustrate some ways that the geosciences represent ideal places to use these techniques. However, the inclusion of QL in introductory courses is often met with resistance at all levels. Faculty who wish to include quantitative content must use creative means to break down barriers of public perception of geoscience as qualitative, administrative worry that enrollments will drop and faculty resistance to change. Novel ways to infuse QL into geoscience classrooms include use of web-based resources, shadow courses, setting clear expectations, and promoting quantitative geoscience to the general public. In order to help faculty increase the QL of geoscience students, a community-built faculty-centered web resource (Teaching Quantitative Skills in the Geosciences) houses multiple examples that implement the five best practices of QL throughout the geoscience curriculum. We direct faculty to three portions of the web resource: Teaching Quantitative Literacy, QL activities, and the 2006 workshop website - Infusing Quantitative Literacy into Introductory Geoscience Courses. These portions of the website are designed to give geoscience faculty the resources they need to infuse quantitative content into their entry-level courses, thereby building the QL of the students who enroll. The infusion of QL in the introductory geoscience classroom allows faculty to realistically represent the quantitative nature of the science to the students who may need it most. Ultimately, the inclusion of pedagogically sound quantitative activities and exercises will serve to increase QL of our educated citizenry.

DOI

http://dx.doi.org/10.5038/1936-4660.2.1.4

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License

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