The ICALC2 Project: Integrating Chemistry & Algebra Learning in College Courses

Authors: 

Jennifer Nimtz, Pamela Mosley, William Humes, Kristen Bieda, and Lynmarie Posey

Students entering college with inadequate mathematics preparation face significant immediate challenges to completing a STEM degree, including placement into non-credit-bearing remedial (NCBR) algebra courses and insufficient mathematics skills to succeed in gateway science courses, such as general chemistry. Michigan State University’s Dow STEM Scholars Program was developed to support such students by providing a summer mathematics course to prepare students for college algebra and a chemistry bridge course (CEM 121) focused on engagement with scientific practices in the first semester. When CEM 121 was piloted in Fall 2015, we found four mathematical topics that presented barriers to learning chemistry content: (1) ratios and proportional reasoning, including conversions with units of measure; (2) understanding of linear rates of change, including understanding the concept of rate of change as a ratio and interpreting the rate of change between two quantities from a graph; (3) explaining covarying relationships between quantities using functions; and (4) translating between multiple representations. Students in NCBR algebra courses also find these same topics challenging. We have developed and piloted parallel interventions to support meaningful understanding of mathematics in CEM 121 and in an enrichment workshop (MTH 100E) accompanying a NCBR algebra course. Interventions in the chemistry bridge course provide just-in-time instruction in the mathematics required to support chemistry learning, while those in the NCBR use chemistry applications to provide context and relevance for the mathematics topics. Examples of interventions from the two courses and the associated instructional goals will be presented.

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