College Math Teaching

March 7, 2012

Teaching Calculus to Biology Students

Filed under: calculus, editorial, mathematical ability, mathematics education — collegemathteaching @ 1:28 am

Currently, I am teaching the second semester of “brief calculus” (or “applied calculus” or “business calculus”) and have a class that has a high percentage of motivated students.

Most are biology majors; a few are chemistry majors.

What I found: these students will work to understand the material but don’t catch on nearly as quickly as, say, engineers. One reason why: I began to understand that engineers spend time in their classes talking about ideas in mathematical language; they throw around trig functions, exponential functions, Taylor series, derivatives and differential equations in their respective classes. Hence when they walked into my differential equations class, their “math brains” have been “warmed up”, so to speak.

On the other hand, this isn’t true for many of my biology students; the language of the class is different from what they are used to.

But these are NOT dumb people; they will work to understand the concepts and eventually understand them.

But it takes a bit more time for them; they need more examples and some patience.

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