The Three E's of the Collection:
Excel Microsoft's spreadsheet software Excel was chosen as a general development environment for the ESTEEM project because most biologists and mathematicians have it on their desktop computers, use it at least minimally for data collection, and find it fairly easy to operate. In addition, Excel is powerful enough to develop applications that involve matrix algebra, statistics, finite difference equations, and simple ordinary differential equations.
Exploratory Since parameters are so easy to change in Excel and it is so easy to import data from diverse and heterogeneous resources, our modules are intended to be adoptable, adaptable, extensible, flexible, and utilitarian for students who are engaged in a variety of biology and mathematics courses. We often have built templates that are easily employed for major modification to modules or easy mimicry to include new data sets or additional complication to current models.
Experiential A primary intention of the Biological ESTEEM project has been to sample elementary applications of mathematics across the spectrum of activity-based general biology curricula. Particular attention was paid to equations that have significantly transformed contemporary biological practice and that are widely used in classroom, laboratory, and field activities in the context of measurement, analysis, modeling, and hypothesis testing. Through extensive use of simulations, tools, and databases, we believe that students will have an opportunity to develop an intuitive sense of the power, utility, and beauty of applying mathematics to biology.
Accessory materials for each module
In addition to a downloadable Excel (.xls) file, each module is supplemented with references to textbooks where the relevant biology and mathematics are introduced, the original sources of such models, current research articles that employ the models explicitly or derivatives of these models, and online related resources. In some instances, additional documentation, other software (particularly Java Applets and remotely run Web Mathematica applications), classroom-lab-field activities, science and mathematics education research references, and historical material are also provided.
The Biological ESTEEM Collection is an open collection
In addition to our continued development of modules, we invite biologists, mathematicians, computer scientists, and other interested parties to contribute new modules or to suggest major revisions to currently existing modules.
BIO2010: Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists. Committee on Undergraduate Biology Education to Prepare Research Scientists for the 21st Century, Board on Life Sciences, National Research Council. The National Academy Press: Washington, DC 2002.
Math & Bio 2010: Linking Undergraduate Disciplines.
Lynn Arthur Steen, Editor. Mathematics Association of America: Washington, DC 2005.
Ten Equations that Changed Biology: Mathematics in Problem-Solving Biology Curricula. John R. Jungck. Bioscene: Journal of College Biology Teaching 23 (1): 11-36 (May 1997).
The Digital Classroom Resources (DCR) provides a select collection of free online learning materials which are available through the site. These materials have been classroom tested and peer reviewed.
MAA Digital Classroom Resources Editor
Department of Mathematics
Shippensburg, PA 17257
Copyright 2006, All Rights Reserved, The Mathematical Association of America.
Implementing NRC Bio 2010's Recommendations for More Mathematics in Undergraduate Biology Education
In 2002, the National Research Council made eight major recommendations for the improvement of undergraduate biology education in its publication: BIO2010: Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists. The first two of these recommendations both emphasized the need for additional 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” and a book published by the Mathematics Association of America entitled: Math & Bio 2010: Linking Undergraduate Disciplines.
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 were developed in biochemistry, bioinformatics, biometrics, developmental biology, ecology, evolution, genetics, microbiology, and physiology. All materials are easily run on economical microcomputers equipped with Microsoft Excel and a web browser. Biological ESTEEM modules are downloadable at no charge.
Support for this project was provided by three NSF grants: DUE-0232823 (National Dissemination BEDROCK), CFDA No. 47.076 (MAA NSDL), The SHODOR Education Foundation, and EPIC (Engaging People in Cyberinfrastructure), the HHMI Digital Scholars program, matching funds from Beloit College, and generous contributions from members of the BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium.
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