Our main goal at MathBench is to integrate quantitative approaches and mathematics more deeply into the undergraduate curriculum in a way that
(1) reinforces biological concepts
(2) increases math literacy, and
(3) prepares students for more complicated mathematical approaches in upper-level courses.
To do this, we have created 30 self-contained learning modules categorized into 5 ‘threads’.
Typically, a MathBench module consists of 10 – 30 interactive, profusely illustrated, ‘educational-but-fun’ web pages on a single quantitative theme.
What's new: July 2010
We have a new section, Environmental Science, with 4 new modules (soon to be 6).
- Sampling Basic principles and types of sampling, plus several concrete applications
- Tragedy of the commons Analyzing and applying the concept of the commons, with numerous quotable quotes from Garrett Hardin's seminal article.
- Acquired immunity The basics of evolution, as applied to the problem of aquired immunity to pesticides.
- Exponential growth and decay The basic growth and decay functions, with plenty of examples
- (coming) Demographic Transition Model Simulation of the stages of demographic transition.
- (coming) What's in your watershed Including watershed definition, impervious surface, bacterial contamination, and measuring Enterococci faecalis concentrations.
In addition, the Nernst Potential module has been completely reconceptualized and rewritten.
Check it out, coming soon to a journal near you: May 2010
Thompson, Katerina V., Kären C. Nelson, Gili Marbach-Ad, Michael Keller,
and William F. Fagan. 2010. Online, interactive teaching modules enhance quantitative proficiency of introductory biology students. CBE Life Sciences Education, in press.
Abstract: There is widespread agreement within the scientific and education
communities that undergraduate biology curricula fall short in providing students
with the quantitative and interdisciplinary problem-solving skills they need to
obtain a deep understanding of biological phenomena and be prepared fully to
contribute to future scientific inquiry. MathBench Biology Modules were designed
to address these needs through a series of interactive, web-based modules
that can be used to supplement existing course content across the biological
sciences curriculum. The effect of the modules was assessed an introductory biology course at the University of Maryland. Over the course of the semester, students showed significant increases in quantitative skill that were independent of previous math coursework. Students also showed increased comfort with solving quantitative problems, whether or not they ultimately arrived at the
correct answer. A survey of spring 2009 graduates indicated that those that had experienced MathBench in their coursework had a greater appreciation for the role of mathematics in modern biology than those who had not used MathBench. MathBench modules allow students from diverse educational backgrounds to hone their quantitative skills, preparing them for more complex mathematical approaches in upper-division courses.
It's official... and peer-reviewed March 2009
You can find a description of the MathBench modules and their pedagogical approach here:
Nelson, Karen C., Gili Marbach-Ad, Katie Schneider, Katerina V.Thompson, Patricia A. Shields, and William F. Fagan, 2009. MathBench Biology Modules: web-based math for all biology undergraduates. Journal of College Science Teaching, 38:34-39.
Abstract: Historically, biology has not been a heavily quantitative science, but this is changing rapidly (Ewing 2002; Gross 2000; Hastings and palmer 2003; Jungck 2005; Steen 2005). Quantitative approaches now constitute a key tool for modern biologists, yet undergraduate biology courses remain largely qualitative and descriptive. Although biology majors are often required to take a full year of calculus, these courses generally use examples unrelated to biology (Gross 1994) and ignore fields of mathematics that may be more relevant to biology, such as liner algebra or theoretical probability and statistics (NRC 2003). In this series of interactive, web-based modules, students are introduced to the mathematical underpinnings of introductory biology in an informal but powerful way. (Contains 2 tables and 4 figures.)
What's new: January 2009
4 new modules were ready in draft from at the end of January 2009. Please comment and provide feedback. The new modules are :
- Serial Dilution (for BSCI 223): use of dilution in measuring microbial density
- Bacterial Growth and Chaos (for BSCI): exponential growth as used in bacterial growth models
- SIR Epidemiology Model (for BSCI 223): use of discrete stage-based models, including construction of appropriate equations and iterating the model, illustrated by the SIR (susceptible-infected-recovered) epidemiological model.
- Enzyme Kinetics (for BSCI 223): rate of enzymatics reactions using Michaelis-Menten equations.
What's new: December 2008
- 3 new modules:
Tricks with Division: use of division for proportions, ratios, and percent change
The Size of Things: introduction to milli-, micro-, and nano-sized biological worlds, plus practice in estimating sizes using a microscope.
Chopping up Plasmids: introduction to plasmids and gel electrophoresis, including interpretation of a gel.
- Diagnostic pre-quizzes for use by students. The quizzes ask a series of questions based on the content of the module. An automated grading system informs the students which parts of the module they need to focus on, or conversely, lets them know if there are areas they can skim lightly.
- “Printer-friendly” versions for those students who find working from a computer screen difficult, or who would like to have a more permanent version of the material. We strongly encourage students to use the online version, which is highly interactive, but we do recognize that this will not fit everyone’s learning style.