Skip to Navigation | Skip to Content

ASC 004, Pre-College Math

Jim MacKenzie, Academic Services

Project Summary | Project CritiqueShowering habits study (pdf)
Other project samples: Recycling habits by gender (pdf)

Project Summary

The ASC 004 course provides a review of high school mathematics while developing critical thinking and problem solving skills. One area of competence needed by these students is in beginning statistics, especially for students whose next mathematics course at Calvin is MATH 143 Probability and Statistics. The Calvin Environmental Assessment Program (CEAP) offers a means of connecting statistics with a real life situation. Students will participate in CEAP by first taking the Environmental Attitude and Behavior Questionnaire to compile data on class attitudes toward the environment. Students will also make measurements of personal recycling and water use behaviors. Using the survey results and behavior pattern data, students will explore how to statistically describe and present this information. Conclusions will be drawn comparing the class attitudes with College outcomes and in extrapolating from class behaviors to general student body conduct.


Thirty-one ASC 004 students took the Environmental Attitude and Behavior Questionnaire and these results were compared with the results for the general student body (n = 1,573) and faculty/staff (n = 350) results. From the summary sheet of outcomes, the ASC students had to present specified data in the form of pie charts, bar graphs, and frequency polygons for all three groups and then compare/contrast the results. Further, they had to use this information to suggest explanations for responses to questions in the Issues and Environmental Laws and Regulations sections of the questionnaire. Finally, the students had to compute average responses for class data in the Behavior section, and compare/contrast class outcomes with that of the faculty/staff and college students as the last j oumal assignment for the semester.

Paper Recycling and Water Usage:

Questions #7 (I recycle newspaper, magazines, and paper.) and #9 (I take short showers in order to conserve water.) from the Behavior section of the questionnaire were chosen as behaviors where data could easily be gathered. The ASC students were equipped with paper grocery bags, plastic pails, and thermometers and instructed to make simple measurements on their paper recycling and water usage behaviors. For a two week period they gathered all paper products personally recycled in their rooms. Shower data was collected by first making simple flow and temperature measurements for their shower, then keeping a seven-day log of shower usage noting frequency and length of shower in minutes/seconds. At the end of these data collection periods, the information was turned in and the results were complied in a spreadsheet (please see attached). Using the results of the class data for recycling and water usage, the students then had to display the data in the form of a histogram. In addition, the students had to calculate measurements of central tendency (mean, mode, and median) and variation (standard deviation). Based upon hall count as of November 2, 1998, and making a number of assumptions, the students had to calculate how many gallons of water and how much energy would be saved over a semester if everyone at Calvin took showers that were one minute shorter in duration.


Overall, I think the exercise was a valuable one for the students. It allowed them to become actively involved in data collection and analysis with information that directly related to their environment.

What worked:

The levels of student interest and participation were high.

The data collection procedures were simple, not requiring a laboratory setting.

The problem topic related to student life and was easily understandable by students with little scientific background.

The problem yielded statistical results that directly related to what we were studying in class.

The CEAP connection was useful, in that it gave the students a larger context for what they were teaming.

It yielded some interesting results for environmental behavior at Calvin and suggested a simple way to save water resources and energy.

What needs to change:

There was not enough time allotted for this exercise. Next time I plan to allow more time in the course for statistics.

If the class is to do poster displays, (and I think this would be a valuable leaming experience for these students,) this exercise needs to occur earlier in the semester rather than at the end of the semester.

Students need to be better prepared for data collection and understand the need to collect accurate data. This may require one or more of the following: the use of more sophisticated equipment, the collecting of more data points, the establishment of standard procedures for measurement taking.

More class time needs to be given for group work and discussion.

If this exercise is connected with CEAP, attendance at the CEAP poster session should be required even for those who do not have a poster.