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2006 - Poster Abstracts

Poster Abstracts

Using scientific evidence to answer real-life questions
Lynn Alley
Science Teacher, Jonesport-Beals High School
Teacher Research Intern, Jackson Laboratory and the University of Maine

My experience as a Teacher Research Intern at The Jackson Laboratory has provided research-based support to my conviction that science teaching should focus more on the process of how to do science. (See Penick, JE & Harris, RL (2005), Teaching with Purpose – Closing the Research-Practice Gap. Arlington, VA. National Science Teacher’s Association). I have come to this conclusion after many years of attempting to cover unrealistic amounts of science content in the classroom, with limited success.

As a part of my internship, I have developed a curriculum that engages students in a series of lessons in which they will experience what it’s like to “be” a scientist and think critically about information as they study a timely topic using a scientific approach. In this series of lessons, students develop a researchable question and hypothesis, compile and analyze relevant scientific data using sources of data from scientific sites on the Internet, and present a convincing case for their answer that is supported by scientific evidence. This poster presents an overview of my curriculum and how I intend to evaluate its effectiveness for student learning when I implement it in the classroom next fall.

 

High resolution mapping of the “Hairpatches” locus
Lynn Alley
Science Teacher, Jonesport-Beals High School
Teacher Research Intern, Jackson Laboratory and the University of Maine

The main objective of this project was to locate the gene responsible for the Hairpatches (Hpt) mutation.  This single gene dominant mutation appeared spontaneously in a strain of mice at the Mouse Mutant Stock Center of The Jackson Laboratory in 1979 and was first recognized by the appearance of patchy skin pigmentation and patchy hair growth. Hpt/Hpt homozygotes die in utero. In addition to the skin and hair lesions, Hpt/+ heterozygotes develop hypertension, anemia, and cardiomyopathy as a consequence of chronic renal disease similar to human glomerulonephritis. Previous mapping carried out at The Jackson Laboratory determined that this mutation was located on chromosome 4 between base pairs 99,837,644 and 126,446,678.

The objective of my 4-month research project (which was part of a full-time one semester research sabbatical at the Jackson Laboratory) was to further narrow the genetic interval for the Hairpatches mutation and to identify this gene. Genetic crosses had been carried out previously for this high resolution mapping study. Genomic DNA was produced through digestion and purification of tissue from mouse kidneys frozen in 2004. PCR (polymerase chain reaction) was used to amplify polymorphic regions of allelic DNA, which was distinguished by agarose gel separation using ethidium bromide staining. Once the target region has been narrowed as much as possible, real time PCR will be used to analyze levels of gene expression in kidneys from mutant and normal mice for the candidate genes defined by high resolution mapping of the Hpt candidate gene interval on chromosome 4. Finally, sequencing of candidate genes within this interval will be used to precisely identify the Hairpatches mutation.

 

What are they thinking? Attitudinal change in higher education general education classes
Mark W. Anderson
Senior Instructor, Resource Economics & Policy
The University of Maine

Assessing learning outcomes is increasingly important in higher education. While much of the assessment research to date focused on measuring learning of specific course content or of skill development (e.g. critical thinking or writing), a fertile area of assessment research is measuring changes in student attitudes or values engendered by the curriculum. At the University of Maine, a collaborative of the faculty offering courses in a general education realm called “Population and the Environment” experimented with assessment of this type.  Courses designed to satisfy this general education requirement were offered by faculty in the national and social sciences. Using a standard survey instrument, the New Ecological Paradigm, instructors did before and after surveys to determine whether these courses, either individually or in the aggregate, affect environmental attitudes. The results reveal interesting questions about general education in the natural and social sciences and about values education.

 

Student (mis)application of partial differentiation to material properties
Brandon R. Bucy
Ph.D. Candidate in Physics
University of Maine

Students in upper-level undergraduate thermodynamics courses were asked about the relationship between the complementary partial derivatives of the isothermal compressibility (k KAPPA) and the thermal expansion coefficient (b BETA) of a substance. Both these material properties can be expressed with first partial derivatives of the system volume. Several of the responses implied difficulty with the notion of variables held fixed in a partial derivative. Specifically, when asked to find the partial derivative of one of these quantities with respect to a variable that was initially held fixed (e.g., (d k /dT)P) [NOTE TO PUBLISHER: should read as the partial derivative of kappa with respect to T at constant P]), a common response was that this (mixed second) partial derivative must be zero. We have previously reported similar difficulties in the context of the Maxwell relations, indicating persistent confusion applying partial differentiation to state functions. We present results from before and after instruction and discuss the design of curricular materials to address these issues.

 

Microscopy research and curriculum development through the Master of Science in Teaching/The Jackson Laboratory research internship.
Glen Davenport
MST Student
University of Maine

The Jackson Laboratory and Center for Science and Math Education Research internship offers current or future educators the opportunity to engage in real scientific research. The accompanying graduate class provides the teachers and future teachers with strategies for applying their research experience to the classroom. I performed a research project with the Institute of Molecular Biophysics, exploring the optical properties of mouse tissue in order to use tissue sections in the new 4Pi microscope. I used varying concentrations of Glycerol to homogenize the Index of Refraction in the tissue to decrease scattering. And I matched the Refractive Index of the homogenized tissue to the Index of the immersion fluid to obtain images with invariant Point Spread Functions.
I developed a four-day curriculum on the Electromagnetic Spectrum to be used in a high school technical physics class. Over the course of the unit, the students use texts, internet resources, as well as tools, toys and communication devices to answer some big questions about EM waves. They examine “How are these waves alike,” “How are they different, and how can we order or categorize them” and ” What do the different waves pass through, What don’t they pass through, And what effect do they have on matter?”

 

The Dirigo Institute
Jo Eaton
Dirigo Institute

The Dirigo Institute provides educators with tools to make learning grounded, engaging, and meaningful to their students through Place Based Education. Camping Summer Institute experiences guide the development of educator’s personalized community curriculum. The final product will be aligned with Learning Results, have an implementation plan, and assessments.

 

Curriculum Topic Study: A systematic approach to utilizing national standards and cognitive research
Francis Eberle, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance

The Curriculum Topic Study (CTS) project is developing a set of tools and processes to engage teachers in a methodical process using national standards and research on student learning to study, analyze, and apply the content and instructional implications of the science and mathematics topics they teach. The NSF-funded – Science Curriculum Topic Study and Mathematics Curriculum Topic Study – publications provide a systematic strategy linking standards and research on student learning to curriculum, instruction, and assessment. The goals of CTS are:
1) Develop a science and a mathematics CTS resource book for teachers at all levels of the teaching continuum;
2) Provide professional development to K-12 teachers and use impact results for further CTS research and development; and
3) Develop a Facilitator’s Guide to support the capacity of professional developers and school leaders to provide a standards-based content and research-informed focus for teacher learning. Two of the three books after being successfully nationally field-tested with teachers, mathematics coordinators, faculty, and staff developers are complete with 147 topic guides in science and 92 topic guides in mathematics. Example contexts for CTS include: study groups, lesson study, case discussions, content immersion, mentoring and coaching, looking at student work, pre-service methods courses, and professional development design. Findings from the second year
evaluation suggest teachers gain substantial new content knowledge, ideas and strategies for planning and implementing instruction based on research. CTS may be the “missing link” for implementing standards and utilizing research on student learning for the purpose of improving teaching practice.

 

A semester at The Jackson Laboratory: Stem cells and sea urchins
Molly Harris
MST Student in Biology
University of Maine

Through the Masters of Science in Teaching graduate program, I was given the opportunity to spend a semester completing a research internship at The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, ME. This internship is designed to give pre-service teachers firsthand research experience, which they can use to create inquiry-based curricula for the classroom. My scientific research project goal was to compare the differential glycosylation status of CD133 on normal and cancer stem cells in order to develop new reagents that will preferentially target CD133 on cancer stem cells. This hands-on experience advanced the development of an inquiry-based curriculum designed for high school biology classes. This weeklong unit was designed to strengthen students’ understanding and application of the scientific method, while engaging them in observation and scientific discovery of sea urchin fertilization and possible environmental threats to development.

 

Teaching physics and mathematics using critical agency theory, methodology, and findings
Apriel K. Hodari, Ph.D.
Research Analyst
The CNA Corporation
Sreyashi Jhumki Basu, Ph. D.
Physics Teacher
School for Democracy and Leadership
Janet Platt
Mathematics Teacher
Boston Day and Evening Academy

Many students find learning mathematics and physics challenging. For students from groups whose participation in physics and mathematics courses is significantly lower than their representation in the population – minorities, low-SES students, girls, and students with disabilities – these challenges are even greater. Critical agency is one way both to create learning opportunities for all students (equity in education) and to empower students to improve the conditions in which they live (equity through education). In this poster, we seek to stimulate discussions about the enactment of critical agency within the contexts of physics and mathematics instruction. We will present theory, methodology and findings, and engage participants in discussions about how critical
mathematical agency and critical physics agency can be used in their classrooms.

 

Adaptation of the inquiry oriented S-C-I-E-N-C-E framework in a heavily technology based environment
Sandor Kadar, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Chemistry
Salve Regina University
A heavily technology oriented inquiry based strategy for general chemistry lab activities is presented. Our approach utilizes the S-C-I-E-N-C-E* framework to develop activities. The S-C-I-E-N-C-E framework enables the instructors to incorporate inquiry at any level into activities. This flexibility allows the gradual removal of scaffolding resulting in a heavily guided-inquiry based curriculum. The S-C-I-E-N-C-E framework also allows the instructor to integrate the necessary math concepts into activities. The backbone of our strategy is the novel educational technology from PASCO Scientific which is available in both, computer-based and computerless forms. This technology makes a broad range of concepts accessible to students which were either out of their reach before or the technology was cost prohibitive. A S-C-I-E-N-C-E framework based curriculum built on this technology enables the instructors to create a very stimulating interactive teaching-learning environment that engages students in self-directed inquiry, in learning to think scientifically, in problem solving, in decision making and effectively promotes scientific literacy. This technology facilitates the manipulation of variables in experiments and models and students can predict, explore, and observe the effects of experimental parameters on variables in more complex experiments than could normally be replicated in the lab. The project is supported by PASCO in an effort to make a collection of guided inquiry based chemistry activities available with their state-of-the-art hardware.

*S-C-I-E-N-C-E: Scientific question to be answered
Concepts students should know beforehand
Indicate a hypothesis/prediction
Engage in constructing a strategy to collect relevant data
Negotiating an experimental setup by each team
Collecting data
Evaluation/analysis/application

 

When activity-based instruction, math concepts, and educational technology meet: The GIBIS * project
Sandor Kadar, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Chemistry
Salve Regina University
William Stout, Ph.D.
Professor of Mathematics
Salve Regina University

The GIBIS Project was developed to facilitate the implementation of guided inquiry based activities in science curricula, with integrated math concepts and embracing the power of the latest computer-based educational technology, in high schools across the state of RI. Every year we work with science teachers from two schools: the first group from a school where the teachers are new to the program, the second group from a school where the teachers already have participated in the program. In the first phase we have a series of workshops where the newly involved teachers are exposed to the concepts of guided inquiry and have a chance to compare this pedagogical approach to what they are doing in the lab. In the second phase they have a chance to get familiar with the computer
based technology. The program provides seed hardware for the school to establish an appropriate teaching-learning environment. During the next phase the teachers develop activity based labs with various level of inquiry focusing on integrating the required math concepts. During the fourth phase, the teachers test the developed activities with their students. During the program, the second group of teachers facilitate the learning process of their colleagues every step the way by sharing their experience in developing activity based exercises, with the utilized technology environment, and with students in the lab. We are in the process of implementing the GIBIS Center which will allow us to raise the program to another level. At this Center network of science teachers that was created during this program with basic understanding of inquiry-based instruction will have the opportunity to develop a full, pedagogically sound activity-based lab curriculum with integrated math concepts in their respective academic areas
utilizing state of the art educational hardware.
*GIBIS = Guided Inquiry Based Integrated Science

 

Do they see what we see: An analysis of college students’ perspectives of astronomical images?
Rebecca Lindell, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Physics
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

Astronomy students must be able to decipher images of astronomical phenomena. How they decipher these images is crucial to their understanding of the subject. In this study we are analyzing over 50 interviews of college students explaining their perceptions of astronomical images from textbooks. Specific snapshots discussed include phases of the moon, time-lapsed photos of lunar and solar eclipses, time -lapsed photos of the motion of the moon, as well as apparent motion of the Sun and the night sky. Those interviewed included elementary education majors and physics/astronomy majors. Preliminary results of this analysis will be reported.

 

A Classification Scheme for Categorizing Concept Inventories
Rebecca Lindell, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Physics
Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville

Since the development of the Force Concept Inventory (FCI), there as been a heightened interest in developing other concept inventories to assess students understanding of a phenomena. As more and more of these instruments are created, it must be made self-evident to test users that not all tests are created equal. We claim that there are three non-overlapping types of concept inventories and that the Science education research communities have an obligation, through peer review, to label any concept inventory as one of these three types of tests: (1) Local Tests, (2) Efficacy Tests, and (3) Diagnostic Instruments. We propose these distinctions based on differences in their development methodology. In this talk we will present evidence for this new classification scheme, as well as provide an analysis of the FCI.

 

Using the human genome project in AP biology
Kevin Malady
AP Biology Teacher
Lawrence High School

To demonstrate the power of the data stored in the National Center for Biotechnical Information the following activity is done by the AP Biology students. The students lead into the exercise by deciphering an autoradiogram for a DNA strand. Once they have the correct sequence of bases they go to the website for the National Center for Biotechnical Information and enter the sequence and seek its location in Homo sapiens. The site identifies the gene and gives subsequent information on the function of the protein produced. Much more information is available that the students are encouraged to investigate, but this is not the activity I am promoting.
The activity that is exciting and rewarding to the students comes next. Each student is given a different autoradiogram for a suspicious strand of mRNA found in a patient that the student is responsible for. They decode and enter the sequence into the National Center for Biotechnical Information and get the identity of the location and the gene that this is a mutation of. With this information they, as the doctor, must make a diagnosis as to what disorder the patient has, and what prognosis and treatment they would recommend. The students are very successful and I believe it opens up the idea that the science fiction world of data retrieval for practical use is actually at their fingertips right now.

 

Student estimates of probability and uncertainty in statistical physics
Donald B. Mountcastle, Ph.D.
University of Maine

Equilibrium properties of macroscopic (large N) systems are highly predictable with nearly vanishing uncertainty as N approaches and exceeds Avogadro’s number. Theories of statistical physics depend on these results. Typical pedagogical devices used in statistical physics textbooks to introduce entropy (S ) and multiplicity [S = k ln(? ?), where ? is the system multiplicity] include flipping coins and/or other equivalent binary events, repeated n times. Prior to instruction, our students usually give reasonable answers about the probabilities, but not the uncertainties of the predicted outcomes of such events. However, they reliably predict that the uncertainty in a measured quantity (e.g., the amount of rainfall rather than whether or not it rained) decreases as the number of measurements increases. Typical textbook presentations presume that students will either have or develop the insight that the relative uncertainty of binary outcomes will similarly decrease as the number of events increases. That is at odds with our findings among students in two successive statistical mechanics classes. Many of our students had previously completed at least one mathematics course in statistics, as well as a laboratory course that included analysis of statistical properties of distributions of dart scores as the number of throws (one dimensional target) increased from ~ 20 to > 200. Even students who did well in that earlier darts exercise often did not predict a decrease in the relative uncertainty when asked about the expected number of ‘heads’ obtained from n coin flips, as n increased from 4 to = 1000.
*Supported in part by NSF Grant #PHY-0406764.

 

An investigation into the effectiveness of physics first in Maine
Michael O’Brien, M.S.T.
Graduate (2006) UMaine Master of Science in Teaching Program
University of Maine
John R. Thompson, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Physics
University of Maine

Data from three high schools that teach physics in ninth grade and three that teach physics in twelfth grade were used to make comparisons between these classes. Research tools include written pre- and post-tests of kinematics and mechanics concepts, a written physics attitudes and expectations survey, and individual student interviews. Portions of these tools were excerpted from well-known and thoroughly tested instruments. We compare the normalized gains on the conceptual survey, and which kinematics and mechanics concepts ninth- and twelfth-graders appear to learn differently. We also compare students’ perceptions of physics from the ninth- and twelfth-grade viewpoints. Preliminary results suggest that while the populations are similar affectively, they have
significant differences in conceptual understanding, and this difference is amplified by different instructional approaches.

 

Educational innovations at a research I institution
Maria T. Oliver-Hoyo, Ph.D.
North Carolina State University
DeeDee Allen
Wake Technical Community College

Lecture and laboratory formats in science instruction are designed to complement and reinforce each other, however, both formats have come under serious scrutiny in recent years with issues such as their effectiveness on learning and impact on student achievement been investigated. In addition, studies reveal a serious concern regarding the apparent disconnect between these two formats as students fail to interpret the data and observations within the context of science concepts discussed in lecture. The concept Advancement through Chemistry Laboratory-Lecture format, cAcL2, emphasizes the inherent assets that both lecture and laboratory have but blends these two formats into a seamless inquiry-based, hands-on activity driven instruction that aims at closing the gap of
disconnect between lecture and laboratory. The cAcL2 format also utilizes technological resources to promote collaborative, scientific, and interpersonal skills among students. This poster shows how this project got started under the support of the Student-Centered Activities for Large Enrollment Undergraduate Programs initiative, SCALE-UP.

 

Making sense of how students make sense of causality
Frederica Raia, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
City College of New York
Richard N. Steinberg, Ph.D.
Professor of Secondary Science and Physics
City College of New York

The understanding of the mechanisms underlying processes such as self-organization, adaptation, emergence, which are characteristics of comp lex systems, is of paramount importance when teaching and learning Earth Systems Science. Preliminary research on students’ approaches to complex dynamic systems indicate that students tend to conceptualize dynamic systems in static disjointed terms, considering the isolated behavior of the constituent components and identifying a single causal force, or a linear chain of unique causal forces to explain complex natural phenomena. This reductionist and mechanist approach to complexity seems to impede a conceptual understanding of complex causal relations. Based on the hypothesis that student understanding of the principles of causality play a fundamental role in the understanding of complexity, undergraduate science majors have been
interviewed and their discourse analyzed to:

1) explore student approaches to complexity and how students attempt to comprehend natural phenomena; and
2) document what changes (if any) occur in student reasoning and approaches to complexity when a modified Aristotelian framework of causality principles is introduced.

Results are presented indicating that the understanding of emergence, downward causation, and self-organization are better conceptualized when students utilize the concepts of material, formal and functional causality derived and adapted from the original Aristotelian framework.

 

Situating a common chain of reasoning in intermediate mechanics
Eleanor C Sayre
Ph.D. Candidate in Physics
University of Maine

As part of ongoing research into cognitive processes and student thought, we have investigated the interplay between mathematics and physics resources in intermediate mechanics students. We present evidence from a reformed sophomore-level mechanics class which contains both tutorial and lecture components. In the context of writing Newton’s Second Law for damped harmonic motion, students discuss the signs of the spring and damping forces. Using a grounded theory approach, we identify a common chain of reasoning in which a request for reasoning is followed by elaborative sense-making and checks for consistency, finishing with an optional appeal for group consensus. Our analysis provides evidence for a description of student thinking in terms of plasticity.
Sponsored in part by NSF grants DUE-0441426 and DUE-0442388

 

Comparing three methods for teaching Newton’s third law
Trevor I. Smith
MST Student
University of Maine
Michael C. Wittmann, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Physics
University of Maine

Though guided-inquiry methods for teaching introductory physics have been shown to be more effective at improving conceptual understanding than traditional lecture-style instruction, researchers in physics education have not studied differences between reform-based curricula in much detail. Several researchers have developed University of Washington-style tutorial materials, but little research has been done to compare the effectiveness of each. Our study examines three tutorials designed to improve student understanding of Newton’s Third Law: University of Washington Tutorials in Introductory Physics, University of Maryland (UMD) Activity-Based Tutorials, and UMD “epistemological” tutorials. Each tutorial was designed with different goals and agendas, and
employs different methods to help students understand the physics. We analyzed pretest and post-test data, including course examinations and data from the Force and Motion Concept Evaluation. We find that students using the UMD “epistemological” tutorial perform better than students using either of the other two.

 

Effects of changing representations in two-dimensional motion
R. Padraic Springuel
Ph.D. Candidate in Physics
University of Maine
John R. Thompson, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy
University of Maine
Michael C. Wittmann, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy
University of Maine

The representation of two-dimensional motion using vectors provides a rich area in which to study how student reasoning about velocity and acceleration depends on the graphical and physical interpretation of the situation. Previous research by Shaffer & McDermott and Flores, Kanim & Kautz has shown that students have a variety of difficulties in using and understanding the necessary vector representations. Thompson’s extensions to this research have shown that changing the physical situation described in the question can change student reasoning about graphical and kinematic quantities. For example, motion along identically drawn curves described as vertical rather than horizontal yields different student reasoning about the kinematics. We report on pretest results from two different years of an introductory algebra-based course. We compare student reasoning about identical physical
situations (horizontal motion) with only slightly different

 

Investigating student understanding of magnetic fields, flexible refrigerator magnets, and magnetically sensitive film
John R. Thompson, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Physics
University of Maine

We report on a study to improve student understanding of magnetic fields in general, and the magnetic properties of Flexible Refrigerator Magnets (FRMs) in particular. The algebra-based introductory course at the University of Maine uses the Tutorials in Introductory Physics in discussion sections to improve student learning of physics concepts. In order to guide students to understand the magnetic properties of Flexible Refrigerator Magnets (FRMs), we developed a section on FRMs as an addendum to the tutorial on Magnets and magnetic fields. The centerpiece of this supplementary curriculum was the use of a thin film containing ferromagnetic fluid as a new visualization tool for magnetic fields. This film was used to help students build a model of the magnetic properties
of FRMs. In written questions administered before tutorial instruction, students were asked about the field patterns for various magnets, including horseshoe magnets and FRMs. Homework and examination questions dealt with magnetic field patterns and asked students to translate between “images” on the magnetic film and orientation of magnets. Understanding of fields of various magnets was better than the ability to interpret patterns on the film after the tutorial.

 

Evolution should be a priority for biology curriculum reform: Inquiry-based pedagogy leads to greater conceptual change
Brianna Timmerman, M.S. Ph.C.
Department of Biological Sciences
University South Carolina

Rich research literature suggests that inquiry-based pedagogies (student-centered, question-driven) are more powerful than traditional, didactic approaches. Such curriculum reform requires a large investment of time and effort however. The original curriculum of a large undergraduate introductory biology laboratory used a didactic pedagogy emphasizing memorization of factual information. Two curriculum units (biodiversity and evolution) were revised to reflect current best practices for constructivist, inquiry-based teaching. The remaining didactic units focused on plant and animal anatomy and physiology. The effectiveness of the two pedagogies was then compared using both a pre-post content knowledge test as well as student open-ended written responses describing meaningful learning events. Resulting data collected in the same course over five consecutive semesters reveal that descriptive, concrete topics such as anatomy can be taught effectively using didactic methods (average effect sizes range from
1.8 to 2.1). Inquiry -based curricula increased content knowledge to a lesser degree (average effect sizes range from 1.0 to 1.1). Inquiry units significantly increased the frequency of student-identified meaningful learning events however compared to didactic approaches (p<0.5 to 0.001). These data concur with other research showing that learning is more difficult with abstract topics such as evolution. Therefore, we feel inquiry-based curriculum reform efforts should prioritize abstract topics such as evolution.

 

Analysis of student understanding of symmetry in Gauss’ law
Adrienne L. Traxler, M.S.T.
Graduate (2006) UMaine Master of Science in Teaching Program
University of Maine
Katrina E. Black
Ph.D. Candidate in Physics
University of Maine
John R. Thompson, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Physics
University of Maine
Michael C. Wittmann, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Physics
University of Maine

To study introductory physics student difficulties with electrostatics, we compared student use of Gauss’ law when finding the electric field for a spherically symmetric and a non-spherically symmetric situation. We used short interviews to design a free-response and multiple -choice-multiple-response survey that was administered to students in introductory calculus-based courses. We describe the development of the survey based on interview data. We also present the survey results and discuss them in light of Singh’s results for Gauss’ law, Collins and Ferguson’s epistemic forms and games, and Tuminaro’s extension of games and frames.

 

Involving mind and body: Motivation of students in pre-calculus through hands -on activities
Karin Vorwerk, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Mathematics
Westfield State College

Every mathematics teacher, whether in primary or secondary education, is familiar with these problems:

Students that have to take math but don’t really want to;
Students that have math anxiety;
Students that forget the material as soon as it is presented; and
Students that are bored.

I present a number of activities appropriate for students in various classes such as statistics and Precalculus. These activities involve outdoor projects, physical activity, and collecting real data. I use them to motivate and teach concepts such as quadratic equations, slopes, trigonometry, logarithms, and polar coordinates. It is my contention that concepts learned “with the whole body” are understood better and retained longer than those practiced only on book examples. In addition, interactive teaching increases student motivation and attitude towards mathematics. I support my claim with data collected from end of the semester surveys.

 

Integrating science and hands -on learning at the Westfield River Environmental Center
Michael Vorwerk, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Environmental Science
Westfield State College
Tim Parshall, Ph.D.
Westfield State College
Professor Robert Thompson
Westfield State College

The Westfield River Environmental Center is located at Westfield State College in western Massachusetts. The Environmental Science major at the college is an interdisciplinary program incorporating mathematical, physical, biological, chemical, social, geographic information systems, and other sciences. Like most colleges and universities, WSC teaches these courses as separate entities where students have little opportunity to integrate the content. In the work place, however, employees are expected to be able to seamlessly use the skills from each discipline to address environmental problems. The Westfield River Environmental Center provides a learning
opportunity for this skill by connecting students with partners in the watershed such as The Nature Conservancy, Riverways, the Wild and Scenic Committee, and the National Park Service. Students work with these organizations on research problems or as interns in service learning projects. Our poster will discuss how the Environmental Center works and how these projects integrate the mathematics and science disciplines to address environmental problems. Some case studies included in the poster are: Mapping Invasive Species, Mapping Conservation, Recreation, and Trail Areas; Creating Base Maps for Watershed Planning; Monitoring Water Quality and Salmon Mortality; and determining Impacts of Small Dams on Salmon Habitat

 

Intuitive quantum physics, a course for non-science majors
Michael C. Wittmann, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Physics
University of Maine
Jeffrey Morgan, Ph.D.
University of Maine

Our course is designed to help students with little mathematics and science background gain an understanding of some of the basic ideas and results of quantum physics. Where possible, we have students build an understanding of physics from easily observable phenomena, giving students touchstone concepts to use when dealing with more complicated topics. The course contains three instructional units in which students develop skill prerequisite to understanding quantum physics, create a “toolbox” with which to study the quantum world, and discuss applications of quantum physics. Concepts studied in the course include: superposition and interference, wave-particle duality, probability, energy, bound states, and tunneling. We use little algebra and emphasize graphical analysis and qualitative reasoning. Most material is introduced in three-hour lab-tutorial periods. The lab tutorial includes individual, small-group, and large-group (full class) activities. Participants will work through activities, discuss instructional formats, and get a full set of lab-tutorials.
Sponsored in part by NSF DUE-0410895.

 

Learning probability and probability density in a quantum physics course
Michael C. Wittmann, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Physics
University of Maine
Jeffrey Morgan, Ph.D.
University of Maine

As part of a new course for non-science majors, Intuitive Quantum Physics, members of the University of Maine Physics Education Research Laboratory have created a series of activities for teaching probability and probability density. Students have trouble learning the target concepts, such as using the ratio of time in a region to total time in all regions. Instead, they often: pattern match to previously studied situations, reason incorrectly about macroscopic elements of the system, use the gambler’s fallacy, and use ensemble results rather than expectation values to predict future events. We present data from pretests and examinations to show the progression of student understanding during instruction.
Sponsored in part by NSF DUE-0410895.

 


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