Leadership in Building Interdisciplinary Programs
University of Wisconsin - Madison
PKAL (Project Kaleidoscope)
October 28, 2005 - October 29, 2005
(Excel Simulations and Tools for Exploratory, Experiential Mathematics):
Implementing NRC Bio 2010’s Recommendations for
More Mathematics in Undergraduate Biology Education and
More Biology in Undergraduate Mathematics Education
In 2003 NRC made eight major recommendations for the improvement of undergraduate biology education in its publication: BIO2010: Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists
< http://www.nap.edu/books/0309085357/html/> . The first two of these recommendations both emphasized the need for more attention to the inclusion of more mathematics:
“it is important that all students understand the growing relevance of quantitative science in addressing life-science questions. Thus, a better integration of quantitative applications in biology would not only enhance life science education for all students, but also decrease the chances that mathematically talented students would reject life sciences as too soft.” … “Most biology majors take no more than one year of calculus, although some also take an additional semester of statistics. Very few are exposed to discrete mathematics, linear algebra, probability, and modeling topics, which could greatly enhance their future research careers. These are often considered advanced courses; however, many aspects of discrete math or linear algebra that would be relevant to biology students do not require calculus as a prerequisite. While calculus remains an important topic for future biologists, the committee does not believe biology students should study calculus to the exclusion of other types of mathematics.”
Explicit strategies for implementing these recommendations were the subject of a follow-up conference entitled “Meeting the Challenges: Education Across the Biological, Mathematical and Computer Sciences” < http://www.maa.org/mtc/ > and a book published by the Mathematics Association of America entitled: Math & Bio: Linking Undergraduate Disciplines (ISBN 0-88385-818-5). We, members of the BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium, were funded to develop modules to address these challenges through a new initiative: Biological ESTEEM (Excel Simulations and Tools for Exploratory, Experiential Mathematics). The recommended areas: “discrete mathematics, linear algebra, probability, and modeling topics” will be illustrated through materials that we have developed in biochemistry, bioinformatics, biometrics, developmental biology, ecology, evolution, genetics, microbiology, and physiology. All materials are easily run on economical microcomputers (PCs and Macs) equipped with Microsoft Excel and a web browser. Biological ESTEEM modules will be freely downloadable from the “Digital Classroom Resources” site in the Mathematics NSDL (National Science Digital Library). About thirty modules are currently available for classroom and laboratory review. Discussion of strategies for the adoption, adaptation, and implementation of these curricular materials in general biology and mathematics classes as well as in upper level undergraduate biology and mathematics courses will be emphasized.
Support for this project was provided by three NSF grants: DUE-0232823 (National Dissemination BEDROCK), CFDA No. 47.076 (MAA NSDL), and EPIC (Engaging People in Cyberinfrastructure), the HHMI Digital Scholars program, the Shodor Foundation (and National Computational Science Institute), matching funds from Beloit College, and generous contributions from members of the BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium.
BioQUEST Staff Attending: