Geology and Mathematics (Remote/In-Person*)

Fall 2020
Winter 2021
Class Size: 46
50% Reserved for Freshmen
Credits per quarter

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Taught by

geology, earth science, biogeochemistry
linguistics, mathematics

This interdisciplinary, introductory-level program will explore topics in physical geology and applied precalculus mathematics. It is designed for students looking for introductory work in college science and math so they can pursue further studies in these areas. Students will gain a broader and deeper understanding of the Earth, of mathematical concepts and functions, and of applications of math to earth sciences. Lecture and workshops will be conducted online, with the goal of primarily synchronous (students & faculty "meet" at the same time) learning, supplemented by some asynchronous (lectures/activities that students will access online on their own time) learning and activities. The study of lab and field sciences and mathematical problem-solving through rigorous, quantitative, and interdisciplinary investigations will be emphasized (though in-person labs are unlikely due to COVID conditions). 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 fall quarter geology we will study fundamental concepts in Earth science including geologic time, plate tectonics, and earth materials. Winter quarter geology will focus on Earth processes including soil development, nutrient cycling, and climate change. In fall quarter our precalculus material will focus on families of mathematical functions, including polynomial, exponential, and logarithmic functions. We will also spend time each week reviewing concepts from algebra, to support our precalculus material. Pattern identification and conceptual understanding of mathematical ideas will be emphasized along with applications to geological and climate sciences. In winter quarter mathematics, we will concentrate on the theory and applications of trigonometric functions, and also study some introductory concepts in probability and statistics. Quantitative reasoning and statistical analysis of data will be emphasized throughout the program and students will participate in weekly geology-content-based workshops focusing on improving mathematical skills. Fall quarter we will focus on skill-building that will be scaffolded over the course of the 2-quarter program. In both quarters, students will conduct group projects, including library research and writing. We will also engage in seminar reading and discussions relating to the content and culture of the fields of mathematics and geology.

In Fall and Winter we will have several socially-distanced day trips on campus to explore local geologic and mathematical phenomena.

This program will provide a very good preparation for foundational science programs such as Integrated Natural Science or Matter and Motion. First-year students will participate in Greener Foundations and sophomore students will participate in literature-based research projects developing skills in quantitative sciences. Any junior-senior students interested in the program should contact the faculty directly at and


To successfully participate in this class, students will need a computer and internet access. Students should have access to Microsoft Office, Desmos (a free web-based app), and Zoom. Mineral and rock kits will be provided for home use. Students can expect to work ~40hrs/week (including class and other learning activities). Students can expect our remote teaching to be approximately 13 hours of synchronous (scheduled) coursework, using Zoom, Canvas, Microsoft excel (and perhaps Microsoft Word.) If conditions allow, the following activities will happen in person: outdoor, on-campus activities, and Greener Foundations components. Students will have access to alternatives to synchronous (in person or remote) participation if conditions require.


*If conditions permit, some Greener Foundations classes may be held in person. 


Greener Foundations:   This program will incorporate Greener Foundations, a holistic course designed for first-time, first-year students. Faculty and staff collaborate to bring study skills, academic planning, health and wellness education, advising, and more into the classroom. More information can be found on the college website at  Greener Foundations  .

This offering will prepare you for careers and advanced study in:

Environmental sciences, geosciences, and mathematics.


Credits per quarter

Online learning:
  • Fall Hybrid Online Learning - This offering delivers 50 - 74% of its instruction online, rather than via face-to-face contact between you and your instructors.
  • Winter: Enhanced Online Learning - This offering requires access to web-based tools, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.

Fall: $75 mineral and rock kits (that students could keep)

Class Standing: Freshman–Sophomore
Class Size: 46
50% Reserved for Freshmen

Scheduled for: Day

Final schedule and room assignments:

First meeting:

Tuesday, September 29, 2020 - 9:00 am
Purce Hall 7 - Classroom

Located in: Olympia