Counting on Soils: Precalculus and Soil Sciences

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Spring 2018 quarter

Taught by

geology, earth science, biogeochemistry

Want to get your hands dirty learning about soils?  Want to see how math can help us better understand environmental processes?

This interdisciplinary, introductory-level program will explore topics in soil sciences and applied precalculus and introductory statistics. It is designed for students with a desire to have a broader and deeper understanding of earth, of mathematical concepts and functions, and of applications of math to soil sciences. The study of lab and field sciences and mathematical problem-solving through rigorous, quantitative, and interdisciplinary investigations will be emphasized. We expect students to finish the program with a strong understanding of the scientific and mathematical concepts that help us investigate the world around us.

In soil sciences we will study fundamental concepts including weathering, soil development, nutrient cycling, and organic matter, and learning will be supported by weekly labs/field work. Precalculus material will focus on polynomial, exponential, and logarithmic functions. Pattern identification and conceptual understanding of mathematical ideas will be emphasized along with applications to soil and field sciences. Additional math topics will include introductory concepts in statistics; qantitative reasoning and statistical analysis of data will be emphasized throughout the program. We will focus on skill-building in the laboratory and math workshops with the goal of doing meaningful field-lab work over the quarter. Students will conduct group projects, including library research and writing, based on topics related to their field work.  An overnight field trip (to Pack Forest) will give students the opportunity to investigate a range of forest soils and soil development processes and to apply mathematical concepts in a field setting.

Research Opportunities

There will be a 4-credit literature-based research component, focusing on soils, within the program.

Program Details

Fields of Study

agriculture biology chemistry ecology environmental studies field studies geography geology mathematics

Preparatory For

This program is preparatory for students interested in entering the sciences (for example the Integrated Natural Science program during 2018-19). 


Spring Open

Location and Schedule

Campus Location


Time Offered


Advertised Schedule

Tues 9-12, 1-3; Wed 9-1; Thurs 9-12, 1-4 (students attend AM or PM); Fri 9-12.

Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning


$250 for a field trip to Pack Forest.