Global Warming: A Zonal Energy Balance Model. Photo credit: Gerard Van der Leun (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Global Warming and Groundwater Modules by Victor Padron

Engaging Mathematics partner Victor Padron of Normandale Community College recently participated in the workshop Teaching Geoscience with MATLAB, hosted by Carleton College in Northfield, MN.

Victor reports that his experience in the workshop was very interesting and motivating. He developed two teaching modules for this workshop that are available to the public through a web repository of educational resources sponsored by the Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College.

Here are the names of his modules with the corresponding links and summaries:

Global Warming, A Zonal Energy Balance Model

Summary:

This is a teaching module, directed to undergraduate students in applied mathematics, introducing a Zonal Energy Balance Model to describe the evolution of the latitudinal distribution of Earth’s surface temperature subject to incremental levels of cumulative carbon emissions in the atmosphere. A strategy to avert “dangerous levels” of global warming is imbedded in the model. Students working with the module will write a MATLAB script to solve the model numerically and apply it with their own choice of the relevant parameters to obtain the solution that guarantee controlled levels of global warming.

Summary:

This is a teaching module presenting an introduction to modeling ground water pollution, directed to undergraduate students in applied mathematics. It begins with a brief discussion of Darcy’s law concerning the flow of a fluid through a porous medium. A mathematical model that uses field data to track ground-water contamination is presented. Students working with the module will write a MATLAB script to obtain a numerical solution of the model and apply it to investigate a real event of groundwater pollution.
Photo credit: Gerard Van der Leun (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
World Temperatures by Anders Sandberg (CC BY 2.0)

Engaging Mathematics Partner to Participate in Teaching Geoscience with MATLAB Workshop

Engaging Mathematics partner Victor Padron of Normandale Community College will be participating in the workshop Teaching Geoscience with MATLAB, hosted by Carleton College in Northfield, MN from October 18-20, 2015.

The workshop is designed to explore how teaching with MATLAB (a high-level technical computing language used by engineers, scientists, and mathematicians) can enhance the student learning environment in undergraduate Earth Science and related courses. MATLAB can be applied to solving problems and developing systems involving mathematical computation, data analytics and statistics, signal and image processing, geographical mapping, and more in the scientific and engineering domains. Workshop participants will help build a collection of teaching activities that showcase the utilization of MATLAB in the classroom.

Victor will be a panelist in a discussion on using MATLAB and data with students. He will present two modules based on versions of his Engaging Mathematics curricula on groundwater and global warming. Both require a computational environment such as MATLAB. The activities produced by the workshop participants will be posted on the workshop website and featured in a new web-based collection devoted to teaching geoscience with MATLAB. Links to these materials will be shared when they are made available. To learn more, visit the workshop website.

Photo credit: Anders Sandberg (CC BY 2.0)

Plenary participants

Engaging Mathematics Leads Hands-On Session and Delivers Plenary Address during 15th Annual SSI

During the 15th Annual SENCER Summer Institute held last week at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, the Engaging Mathematics initiative led a hands-on session in which participants tried out lessons and curricular units that faculty from the Engaging Math project have developed, all of which illustrate how to connect important topics in mathematics to a variety of civic issues. We are pleased to share these lessons and associated materials here on our project website, so that even if you weren’t able to join us in Worcester, you will still be able to access and use the Engaging Mathematics lessons in your own classroom, with your own students.

The lessons cover civic topics in environmental science, health, social justice, and sustainability, and are applicable to statistics, college algebra, pre-calculus, calculus, and mathematics for liberal arts courses. For an outline of the agenda of the hands-on session, links to lessons and materials covered by session presenters, and links to our Engaging Mathematics Advisory Board member Victor Donnay’s plenary slides, references, and handouts, please see the document below:

Download (PDF, 101KB)

waterway

Normandale Community College: A Place Where Students “See” Math

In our last issue, Normandale Community College’s Mathematics for the Liberal Arts was identified as a course that aims to inspire students to appreciate the mathematics that surrounds them, the mathematics that is hidden in plain sight. According to Normandale Professor Anthony Dunlop, the ultimate goal he envisioned while designing the course was “to have students think of math whenever they are near Minnesota’s many waterways, and to have at least an inkling that mathematics and quantitative reasoning [are] vital to understanding and protecting these resources.”

The analysis of real data from the nearby Nine Mile Creek Watershed District serves as the instructional framework for Dunlop’s course. Although he has used this framework the three previous times he’s taught Mathematics for the Liberal Arts, he is eager to expand the course into new areas, and expressed excitement that participating in NCSCE’s Engaging Mathematics initiative, which encourages professors to apply the SENCER Ideals to their curricula, will afford him this opportunity. One way he plans to expand the course is by developing new modules. These modules will cover topics such as wildlife management, energy production and use, and water table depletion and replenishment. In keeping with the “math you can see” theme on which his course largely operates, new energy modules will be based on data from a coal-burning plant visible from the Normandale campus. Dunlop states that this “math you can see” way of teaching helps students realize that math is more than “pointless symbol pushing.” After taking his course, students “might still dislike mathematics,” Dunlop says, “but they can no longer claim it’s remote and abstract.”

Dunlop also plans to bundle his course materials into a portable curriculum, so that anyone, at any institution, might teach Mathematics for the Liberal Arts. When asked how he plans to make his course transferable to institutions where the Nine Mile Creek Watershed and coal-burning plant are not “visible,” Dunlop replied that, while he still needs to do further planning in this area, one possibility is to offer the course’s questions and activities as templates, allowing instructors to fill in spreadsheets with data from their own surroundings, which will help ensure all students get the chance to “see” math.

Professor Victor Padron, another member of the Normandale faculty, will also be developing modules for the Engaging Mathematics project. His work will focus on undergraduate research in the areas of groundwater pollution and climate change. Padron’s modules will be transferable into any standard-sequence calculus course. These courses are taken mostly by STEM majors, who, Dunlop says, “are not necessarily interested in mathematics.” He hopes the SENCER approach of combining civic issues with instruction will pique his students’ interest in the subject.

Padron taught a groundwater pollution module once before, during the Fall 2013 semester, as part of Calculus with Linear Algebra and Differential Equations. The module’s research projects require students to apply various calculus techniques as they track both the flow of groundwater and the fate of its contaminants. Padron aims to further develop this module by inserting new examples and exercises, expanding MATLAB accessibility, and developing additional support for instructors.

When asked how MATLAB models help students engage with visually elusive groundwater, Padron replied:

The fact that we are modeling a complex event that is out of sight as ground water makes it necessary to use mathematical models that the computer brings to life. Typically when dealing with data from real events of groundwater pollution, one cannot obtain analytical solutions to the equations involved. A software like MATLAB allows us not only to obtain numerical approximations to the solutions but also to visualize the results, bringing an unseen phenomenon to the surface.

Padron’s model on climate change, another less-than-tangible topic, currently exists only as an initial sketch, but will also include mathematical models. Understanding Earth’s climate requires an understanding of mathematics, Padron states, adding that, “while controlled physical experiments on climate change are rarely available, mathematical models, computational experiments, and data analysis are the fundamental tools” for studying Earth’s climate system.

The White House also sees value in modeling climate change, as evidenced by the recent launch of a new website—climate.data.gov. The site aims, as the New York Times reports, “at turning scientific data about projected droughts and wildfires and the rise in sea levels into eye-catching digital presentations that can be mapped using simple software apps,” in the hopes that people will more readily engage with the issue after learning from models how climate change could affect them directly. Padron’s models will be conceptual, formulated in terms of mean temperature and thermal energy exchange among latitudes. Although these parameters retain only some fundamental features of the climate system, “they are capable of reproducing relevant complex phenomena with a relatively simple mathematical formulation that is well suited to the undergraduate level of mathematical education,” he explains.

For insight into the direction this module may take, browse the Mathematical Association of America’s November 2013 issue of the College Mathematics Journal, which Padron cites as an important starting reference. To stay abreast of the rest of Dunlop and Padron’s advancements, be sure to follow @MathEngaging on Twitter.

Article originally published by Christine Marie DeCarlo on March 28, 2014.

Bucki Facilitating

Engaging Mathematics Partners Launch New Initiative

This past weekend, January 24-25, nineteen members of the Engaging Mathematics leadership team, including the partners, advisory board representatives, consultants, and Co-PIs, met in Jersey City, New Jersey to formally begin work on how to “make mathematics relevant to students’ lives, to connect mathematics learning to the goals and interests that students bring to college, and to show how mathematics relates to other disciplines, important civic questions, and technological challenges.”

On the first day of the meeting, the partners from the lead institutions shared and discussed details about the math curricula they had developed, including their intended audiences, the civic topics covered, and the expected rollout of each course or module. Attendees discussed strategies to expand the community of practice by reaching out to peers through academic meetings and conferences. An action planning workshop led by facilitator Jonathan Bucki helped stakeholders to specifically plot activities over the three years of the grant.

Attendees were joined by cadets from the United States Military Academy who shared their experiences with math courses that include civic issues. The cadets also demonstrated mathematical modeling on topics such as power battery loadouts for US soldiers, and the relationships between their costs and weights. Dr. Rikki Wagstrom of Metropolitan State University discussed how she incorporated the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) into her “Mathematics of Sustainability” course.

The second day of the meeting focused on assessment and evaluation. The independent evaluator for Engaging Mathematics, Leo Gafney, discussed his plans and methods for evaluating the project outcomes. Later, Stephen Carroll of Santa Clara University discussed guidelines and best practices for the Student Assessment of Learning Gains (SALG), which will be used to evaluate student progress in the courses.

“It was wonderful to see the enthusiasm of the project’s faculty members from different institutions as they worked together on planning and as they shared their ideas about teaching mathematics through a variety of civic issues, including environmental sustainability, energy consumption, water resources, and other topics related to local, regional or national needs. I am optimistic that the work the ‘Engaging Mathematics’ faculty are doing will be shared and serve as models (whether full courses or modules that can be used in a course) for the wider SENCER and national mathematics communities,” said Ellen Mappen, an NCSCE consultant with the project.

Following the meeting, Dr. Lynn Gieger of Oglethorpe University, a partner in Engaging Mathematics, shared that, “I came away from the weekend with a much better sense of the larger project as well as our particular role in it.” Dr. Chris Arney, professor of math and Chair of Network Science for the United States Military Academy and member of the advisory board, noted, “I do believe I was re-SENCERized.”

A page focusing on Engaging Mathematics activities and resources is now live here. Over the course of the project, a separate website will be developed and linked to this page. Visitors will be able to peruse the types of courses planned to be enhanced or developed, and additional features will be added to the site to allow project partners to share details on their course development, and once available, the results of course implementations. To learn more about the Engaging Mathematics initiative, please click here.

Article originally published by Kyle Simmons and Christine Marie DeCarlo on January 30, 2014.

Table Discussion

Engaging Mathematics Hosts Planning Meeting in New Jersey

As previously announced in the eNews (here), the National Science Foundation recently funded the project Engaging Mathematics, “a strategy and program to make mathematics relevant to students’ lives, to connect mathematics learning to the goals and interests that students bring to college, and to show how mathematics relates to other disciplines, important civic questions, and technological challenges.” On January 24th and 25th, the National Center for Science and Civic Engagement will host the kick-off meeting in Jersey City, NJ.

Engaging Mathematics project leadership includes Wm. David Burns, Principal Investigator, and Co-Principal Investigators Cindy Kaus of Metropolitan State University, Mangala Kothari of LaGuardia Community College, and Frank Wattenberg of the United States Military Academy. Project partners, who will develop the curricula and materials, include Tony Dunlop and Victor Padron of Normandale Community College, Cathy Evins and Barbara Gonzalez of Roosevelt University, Lynn Gieger and John Nardo of Oglethorpe University, Rikki Wagstrom of Metropolitan State University, and John Zobitz of Augsburg College.

During next week’s meeting, 19 of the project’s stakeholders will examine the curricula developed by the partners, discuss the expansion of the community of practice, and more closely plot the trajectory of the project going forward. Jonathan Bucki will facilitate planning discussions. Additional consultation will be provided by Dr. Leo Gafney (the project’s external evaluator), and Eliza Reilly and Ellen Mappen (of the National Center). Advisory board members who will contribute expertise for Engaging Mathematics include David Arney of the US Military Academy, Prabha Betne of LaGuardia Community College, Victor Donnay of Bryn Mawr College, David Ferguson of Stony Brook University, and Susan Forman of Bronx Community College. A summary of the meeting will be featured in a forthcoming edition of the NCSCE eNews.

Article originally published by Kyle Simmons on January 15, 2014.

stickies table

Engaging Mathematics to Expand SENCER Applications in Mathematics Education

Engaging Mathematics: Building a National Community of Practice is the name for a new three-year initiative supported by the National Science Foundation though its TUES-II program.

Engaging Mathematics (EM) will be organized by faculty colleagues who have successfully incorporated the SENCER ideals and other progressive pedagogies into college-level mathematics education. Over the next three years, the partners will work together to develop, assess and refine courses and modules, sharing them within the community of practice. As the project matures, EM partners will disseminate the results of their labors to the larger higher education community through a variety of media. While EM partners will routinely communicate with the SENCER community and participate in SENCER’s faculty development programs, they will also reach out to—and through—disciplinary societies and others new to SENCER.

In three years, the EM project intends to produce and publish transferable models, offer webinars, and organize local, regional, and national faculty development opportunities. The overall goal is to nurture and support a vibrant community of practice open to those committed to improving mathematics learning by connecting that learning to the great civic challenges of our day.

“Though this wasn’t so in the early years of SENCER, we now have a strong corps of leaders, along with terrific models and other curricular assets, in mathematics,” noted David Burns, NCSCE’s executive director and the PI of the new NSF award. “This grant from NSF will enable a team of scholars who have created many of these assets to work intensively with one another to expand their efforts, connect to new communities, and introduce successful approaches to colleagues around the country.”

“As with all our Center’s initiatives, our goal is to improve learning and strengthen the capacity for responsible civic engagement, ” Burns added. “We are blessed with a terrific team of co-PI’s and campus collaborators who will work to achieve the ambitious goals we set for this project. This is especially important work in the context of our nation’s need to improve our capacity to use mathematics to describe, model, analyze, and make reliable predictions about some of the most vexing problems we face. How to best understand and make decisions about a welter of personal and practical problems that are presented and argued in mathematical or statistical terms is one more challenge we hope to help our students meet.”

Burns, who will serve as principal investigator of Engaging Mathematics, will be joined by a team of co-principal investigators including: Dr. Cindy Kaus of Metropolitan State University, Dr. Mangala Kothari of LaGuardia Community College, and Dr. Frank Wattenberg of the United States Military Academy.

Engaging Mathematics institutional partners include Dr. John Zobitz of Augsburg College, Dr. Victor Padron and Dr. Tony Dunlop of Normandale Community College, Dr. John Nardo and Dr. Lynn Gieger of Oglethorpe University, and Dr. Barbara Gonzalez and Dr. Cathy Evins of Roosevelt University. Dr. Leo Gafney will provide guidance and overall evaluation of Engaging Mathematics activities.

During the term of the project, partners at LaGuardia Community College plan to expand on the successful Project Quantum Leap course Elementary Statistics with Environmental and Social Issues. Metropolitan State University participants will create modules for calculus courses centered on the topic of sustainability. In addition to these newly developed courses, LaGCC and Metro State will also disseminate successful SENCER applications on their campuses to the other Engaging Mathematics partners, and to faculty and administrators locally and nationally.

Augsburg’s focus will be on a project-based calculus endeavor, while Oglethorpe University will create new models for the general education courses required of all students. Roosevelt University partners plan to integrate the SENCER approach into a college algebra course using issues affecting the city of Chicago. Normandale Community College plans to focus on water issues in a general education course, specifically enabling students to create linear and regression models. They also plan to introduce calculus-based group projects into another course.

An overall project goal is to have the newly developed course and modules taught at both the institution where the course was originally developed and at a partner campus. In the end, all the institutional partners will thus have the benefits of several new courses and the PIs and project team will have a better understanding of what is needed to make courses succeed in multiple settings.

Professor Frank Wattenberg of the United States Military Academy will provide guidance and forge connections with other national mathematics innovation initiatives. He will be responsible for connecting our reform efforts to already successful and complementary projects, so that the full advantage of what has been developed and learned by others is available to the EM partners and the SENCER community.

Distinguished educators who will advise Engaging Mathematics partners as they execute activities over the next several years include David C. Arney of the United States Military Academy, Samuel Benigni of Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, Prabha Betne of LaGuardia Community College, Victor Donnay of Bryn Mawr College, David Ferguson of Stony Brook University, Susan Forman of CUNY Bronx Community College, and Solomon Garfunkel of COMAP. Additionally, NCSCE senior scholars Ellen Mappen and Eliza Reilly will assist project partners with consultation on planning and dissemination and in transforming their successful courses and modules into SENCER national models.

At its invitation, the Engaging Mathematics leadership team will work with the Mathematical Association of America to disseminate materials, modules/courses, and results to their communities of interest. Additionally, Engaging Mathematics will offer a website where updates and resources developed throughout the initiative will be made available to all interested educators, administrators, and students. Regional meetings, national symposia presentations, and faculty development programs are planned.

Look for reports on the work of the Engaging Mathematics partnerships, along with information on how you and your institution might benefit from the EM project in future editions of the eNews.

Article originally published September 19, 2013.