by Paul Bailey
Microscopy, Osmosis, Cellular Respiration, and Tropical Field Biology…..sounds more like a science class. However, last year I collaborated with Katie Hooper, Associate Professor at Zane State College, to create Biology Connections for an Algebra I course that I taught. The collaboration was an excellent method for cross-curricular project-based learning and for students to gain an insight into a college course.
"mathematics was involved with the learning objectives of the science"
Ms. Hooper and I had many discussions about her lab activities and how mathematics was involved with the learning objectives of the science lessons. Throughout the Fall semester, Professor Hooper and I recorded six videos for the Biology Connections program. The first video was an introduction of Ms. Hooper and the classroom in which her courses completed the lab exercises. Then, during four lab days and one trip abroad, Ms. Hooper video recorded the activities and had student volunteers explain the science that was occurring. Data from the lab activity was shared at on the video or through a shared file.
"students in my class were fascinated by the video"
After obtaining the video files, I would edit a 2-4 minute video of the lab to show to the students in my Algebra class. I would have another discussion with Ms. Hooper to understand the Biology involved, the process of the lab, and the data obtained. The students in my class were fascinated by the video. They would sit quietly, watching the activities, and asking questions. I created learning objectives to fit into our Algebra curriculum for the lessons. Some of the mathematics of the lab fit right into the Algebra standards. Students found the Microscopy lab exciting to look into the cells of organisms. We were able to discuss cell reproduction and Sickle Cell Anemia throughout the lab. Students used their ability to solve equations to determine the minuscule size of the cells they were viewing. For the other labs, I needed to mold the mathematics to match the Algebra curriculum. Students thought the Tropical Field Biology lab was filmed in an aquarium as the tropical fish swam through the coral reef. The Algebra students used the data collected to graph scatter plots and write equations for trend lines.
"watching the intrigue and wonder on the faces of kids throughout the lessons"
Biology Connections was an excellent catalyst for students to learn science in the Algebra class. The best part of the projects was watching the intrigue and wonder on the faces of kids throughout the lessons. Even though I did not explicitly state the Scientific Method to the students, each project required them to work through the process to understand. The Biology Connections program was a fantastic project-based learning math unit that initiated an understanding of life sciences.