By Carole Hayward
Posted on 2014-07-17
“Our students should be able to at least reason quantitatively: to read and interpret data, graphs, and statistics. They should be astute enough to demand to see the evidence when some politician claims that a new drug cures cancer, job numbers are up, our carbon footprint is too big, the president’s budget is the highest ever, and the world is coming to an end on December 21….But if this is a worthy ideal, how do we achieve numerical nirvana?”
Authors Clyde Freeman Herreid, Nancy A. Schiller, and Ky F. Herreid make the case in Science Stories You Can Count On: 51 Case Studies with Quantitative Reasoning in Biology that introductory biology is an ideal place to start. Teaching biology using real stories with quantitative reasoning skills enmeshed in the story line is a powerful and logical way to teach the subject and to show its relevance to the lives of future citizens regardless of whether they are science specialists or laypeople. “Biology is well suited for mathematical description, from the perfect geometry of viruses, to equations that describe the flux of ions across cellular membranes, to computationally intensive models for protein folding.”
The authors also contend: All students need some mathematics. They receive the fundamentals in their K-12 education. Once they are in higher education, the kind and extent of their quantitative instruction depends on their career plans. It is especially important that all students, regardless of their major, leave school knowing what questions to ask when they see data rolled out. One way to approach this is to use active learning, such as case study teaching.
The case studies presented in the book are divided into 12 sections. Each case study presents an abstract, learning objectives, quantitative reasoning skills/concepts, the case study itself, questions, and links to a web version.
The case studies delve into topics that your students will find relevant, dealing with items and questions they face in their daily lives. Here’s a sampling from each section:
The Scientific Method
Chemistry of Life
Plant Form and Function
Animal Form and Function
Ecology and Behavior
Biosphere and Conservation
These 51 case studies are a great way to engage your students in science and mathematics. Blend 12 areas of general biology with quantitative reasoning in ways that will make your students better at evaluating product claims and news reports.
This book is also available as an e-book.
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