Integrating Biology and Math Education at New Mexico State

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Title of Abstract: Integrating Biology and Math Education at New Mexico State

Name of Author: William Boecklen
Author Company or Institution: New Mexico State University
Author Title: Professor
PULSE Fellow: No
Applicable Courses: General Biology
Course Levels: Introductory Course(s)
Approaches: Assessment, Changes in Classroom Approach (flipped classroom, clickers, POGIL, etc.)
Keywords: Introductory Biology, Algebra, Mathematical Biology, Controlled Experiment, Integration

Name, Title, and Institution of Author(s): Mary Ballyk, New Mexico State University Avis James, New Mexico State University

Goals and intended outcomes of the project or effort, in the context of the Vision and Change report and recommendations: Our goal is to integrate fully undergraduate biology and mathematics education at a large state institution that serves an ethnically-diverse and economically-diverse student body.

Describe the methods and strategies that you are using: Our strategy employs a two-step process. The first step was the development of a mathematically intensive version of our introductory biology course. A math-intensive section was offered concurrently with traditional versions of introductory biology. Consequently, the performance and attitudes of students regarding key biological and mathematical concepts can be compared in a statistically robust way, using common assessment instruments, across course types (traditional versus integrated). The second step will be the development of a new course that combines introductory biology and intermediate algebra. The new course will be team-taught by biology and mathematics faculty.

Describe the evaluation methods that you used (or intended to use) to determine whether the project or effort achieved the desired goals and outcomes: We administered the Abbreviated Math Anxiety Scale (AMAS) at the beginning (pre- test) and end (post-test) to students in integrated and traditional sections of introductory biology. The AMAS consists of nine questions on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (low anxiety) to 5 (high anxiety) and yields a two-factor structure representing learning mathematics anxiety (LMA) and mathematics evaluation anxiety (MEA). We also administered an attitude survey of our own design to students enrolled in the math-intensive and traditional sections of introductory biology. The survey consisted of eight questions on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from 2 (Strongly Agree) to -2 (Strongly Disagree).

Impacts of project or effort on students, fellow faculty, department or institution. If no time to have an impact, anticipated impacts: A two-way analysis of variance indicated significant differences between courses (p= 0.019) and between genders (p= 0.044) in initial (pre-test) aggregate math anxiety scores. Students enrolled in the math-intensive section exhibited higher initial levels of anxiety (mean= 22.5) than did students enrolled in the traditional section (mean= 20.5). However, a similar analysis of post-test aggregate AMAS scores indicated no significant differences between courses (p= 0.180) or between genders (p= 0.306). An interesting temporal pattern of AMAS responses was observed in the math-intensive section. Discriminant function analysis on the pre-test responses supported the general pattern reported above: there were significant differences between genders (p= 0.044) with females exhibiting higher levels of mathematics evaluation anxiety (MEA) than did males. An analysis of post-test responses indicated stronger differences between genders (p= 0.015) but the pattern of differences changed - females still reported slightly higher levels of MEA, but they also reported significantly less learning mathematics anxiety (LMA) than did males

Describe any unexpected challenges you encountered and your methods for dealing with them: No unexpected challenges were encountered.

Describe your completed dissemination activities and your plans for continuing dissemination: The program was discussed at the Making BioMath Happen (Tucson, AZ) and TUES PI (Washington D.C.) conferences. Manuscripts will be prepared for publication when more data is collected.

Acknowledgements: Jamie Howard taught 2 sections of traditional freshman Biology.