written by Diana Thompson (TCC 2017 guest blogger, Undergraduate Academic Advisor for the Department of Biology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa)
STEM fields across the nation are facing a crisis; college students are underprepared in mathematics skills. Why does this matter? Not everyone is going to become a mathematician, right?
Unfortunately, even a seemingly removed discipline such as Biology has a critical need for a foundation in Chemistry, which relies on skills in Mathematics. Imagine the look on my Marine Biology students’ faces when I tell them that they need to complete Organic Chemistry and Calculus II. This reality is even more difficult to swallow when placement exam scores are not where they ideally should be, meaning more Chemistry and Calculus-track Mathematics courses will be needed in order to graduate.
As a college-level administrative staff member, it is easy to place the blame on high schools, when the problem is reflected on placement exam scores the summer before students begin. Luckily for one high school on Hawaii island, students are getting a first-class education in Chemistry, and it all starts with flipping the classroom.
Robin Fujioka utilizes screencasted videos to engage the younger generation of learners, and has reconfigured her curriculum to increase student confidence in their abilities to translate prior mathematics knowledge into a new chemistry concept: moles. The final step, the “exit ticket,” makes testing for learning gains less scary for the students thanks to its friendly-sounding name.
I have high hopes that other teachers in STEM fields will take note of these instructional methods that Robin has adapted in her classroom, and that college instructors will then follow suit. Today’s young learners grew up with technology, so it’s about time we’ve adapted to meet our students where they’re at, and show them just how fun learning can be.