Use to propose new general education courses (except writing courses),... gen ed courses and to remove designations for existing gen...

I. ASCRC General Education Form (revised 9/15/09)
Use to propose new general education courses (except writing courses), to change existing
gen ed courses and to remove designations for existing gen ed courses.
Note: One-time-only general education designation may be requested for experimental courses
(X91-previously X95), granted only for the semester taught. A NEW request must be
submitted for the course to receive subsequent general education status.
III. Language
VII: Social Sciences
III Exception: Symbolic Systems * VIII: Ethics & Human Values
separate forms
IV: Expressive Arts
IX: American & European
if requesting
V: Literary & Artistic Studies
X: Indigenous & Global
more than one
VI: Historical & Cultural Studies
XI: Natural Sciences
w/ lab  w/out lab X
*Courses proposed for this designation must be standing requirements of
majors that qualify for exceptions to the modern and classical language
Dept/Program Geosciences
Course #
Course Title
Power of Numbers
II. Endorsement/Approvals
Complete the form and obtain signatures before submitting to Faculty Senate Office
Please type / print name Signature
Phone / Email
Program Chair
III. Type of request
One-time Only
Reason for Gen Ed inclusion, change or deletion
This is a new GLI seminar.
Description of change
IV. Description and purpose of new general education course: General Education courses
must be introductory and foundational within the offering department or within the General
Education Group. They must emphasize breadth, context, and connectedness; and relate course
content to students’ future lives: See Preamble:
Open today’s newspaper. Watch the news on TV. Read your favorite online source. Go
shopping. Drive your car. Regardless of your specific choices, three common themes
immediately emerge: our modern society and the issues we face are globally integrated, have
important quantitative components, and are discussed using the tools of science and
mathematics. Even issues without explicit scientific content regularly include statistical
comparisons, order of magnitude considerations, and cost-benefit analyses. Budget deficit
negotiations include arguments about foreign aid ($34 billion) and earmarks ($14 billion) in a
$1.3 trillion dollar shortfall (by 2030). Without an understanding of orders of magnitude, these
numbers are incomprehensible. New medical research suggests that women who drink
moderately and regularly improve their chances for “successful aging” by more than 20%.
Without an understanding of risk and probability, this number is useless. Gas prices are highly
inversely correlated to the purchasing of SUVs and light trucks. Without an understanding of
coupling and correlation, this fact is obscure.
The strong influence of quantitative information in our lives mandates equally strong numeracy
skills. At the same time, secondary education has shifted toward algebraic mechanics instead
of quantitative reasoning, and even many college graduates profess discomfort with or outright
unfamiliarity with analytical tools. This course seeks to address two coupled problems:
students don’t “like” quantitative methods, and students aren’t proficient in numerical
reasoning. By conveying why numbers and mathematical concepts matter in all aspects of
modern life, then providing students with powerful tools to approach these issues and decisions,
this course is intended to provide a basis for lifelong learning, both within and outside of the
University. This course will also provide foundational skills for students’ more thorough and
sophisticated exploration of big and important issues within the Global Leadership framework.
V. Criteria: Briefly explain how this course meets the criteria for the group. See:
Explore a disciple and demonstrate scientific
This course uses case studies from a wide
range of scientific disciplines to demonstrate
scientific method, quantitative analysis, and
critical thinking. Students are also required
to apply these techniques themselves.
Address uncertainty
One of the underlying course themes is the
role of uncertainty in quantitative
comparisons and analyses. In addition, one
unit of course content is specifically directed
toward the meaning of scientific uncertainty
and the way it is explicitly quantified.
VI. Student Learning Goals: Briefly explain how this course will meet the applicable learning
goals. See:
Understand quantitative principles
This course is designed to provide basic
quantitative literacy, both by motivating
students to use quantitative information
and by making them use it themselves.
Understand methods
Because a range of quantitative
techniques are absolutely integral to the
modern practice of science, introducing
both the context and the methods of
quantitative analysis introduces students
to the basic framework of science.
Detect patterns, draw conclusions, test
Each set of examples and case studies is
designed to show how quantitative
information can and should be used to
detect patterns, rank and compare ideas,
test hypotheses, and draw defensible
conclusions from messy data.
Understand verification
By using numerical and quantitative
techniques on real problems, the students
will themselves experience the process of
verification, so gain a clear
understanding of how it works, its
strengths and weaknesses, and how to
implement it in novel settings.
VII. Justification: Normally, general education courses will not carry pre-requisites, will carry
at least 3 credits, and will be numbered at the 100-200 level. If the course has more than one
pre-requisite, carries fewer than three credits, or is upper division (numbered above the 200
level), provide rationale for exception(s).
VIII. Syllabus: Paste syllabus below or attach and send digital copy with form.  The syllabus
should clearly describe how the above criteria are satisfied. For assistance on syllabus
preparation see:
GEO 160: The Power of Numbers
Numeracy is as fundamental to our modern society as literacy, but it gets much less attention.
Lots of people who would shudder at the idea of not being able to read and write willingly
admit to hating math, or just avoid it quietly. At the same time, numbers, mathematics, and
quantitative reasoning underpin almost all of the decisions and debates that face us every day at
every level. This class will explore issues where quantitative understanding is central, such as
federal budgets, the financial meltdown and recovery, medicine and epidemiology, risk, polls
and statistics, and new scientific discoveries. In the process, we will develop tools and tricks
for using numbers skillfully, comfortably, and powerfully. If you hate and fear math, or if you
love it, this is a class for you.
Course grading will be based on participation in the case studies and a final exam. For each
topic, students will turn in their group exercises, where they calculate solutions to case study
issues and questions.
Week 1: Introduction and justification
1.1 Introduction and structure of the course
1.2 Selected case studies from current affairs
Week 2: How big is big? (Orders of Magnitude)
2.1 Understanding and estimating magnitude
2.2 Case studies from the news
possible topics: federal deficit, global energy budget
Week 3: Take a stab at it (Fermi Problems and estimation)
3.1 The Fermi approach
3.2 Case studies from the news
possible topics: Western water politics, meat eating vs. vegetarianism
Week 4: What’s the point of units? (Dimensional analysis)
4.1 Introduction to dimensional analysis
4.2 Case studies from the news
possible topics: scale models, why airplanes fly, bugs’ life
Week 5: How do you know? (Introduction to statistics)
5.1 Common statistical methods, interpreting uncertainty
5.2 Case studies from the news
possible topics: columns from the FiveThirtyEight blog
Week 6: How do you know? Part 2 (Fancier statistics)
6.1 Nonparametric, multiparameter, and Monte Carlo methods
6.2 Case studies from the news
possible topics: epidemiology and clusters, extinction
Week 7: Watch out! (Probabilistic forecasting)
7.1 Forecasting methods
7.2 Case studies from the news
possible topics: weather, earthquakes, hurricanes, terrorist attacks
Week 8: What should I do? (Risk assessment and cost/benefit analysis)
8.1 risk assessment methods
8.2 case studies from the news
possible topics: insurance, cat bonds, climate change
Week 9: What’s the point of calculus? (basic calculus)
9.1 Introduction to differentiation and integration
9.2 Case studies
possible topics: roller coaster design, fleet gas mileage
Week 10: How are those related? (Nonlinearity)
10.1 Introduction to nonlinear terms
10.2 Case studies from the news
possible topics: spring runoff, fish spawning, migration
Week 11: What the heck just happened? (Feedbacks and emergence)
11.1 Introduction to stability analysis
11.2 Case studies from the news
possible topics: global warming and the Gulf Stream, building and bridge
Week 12: Efficient understanding (Richness vs. precision)
12.1 Introduction to parameterization
12.2 Case studies from the news
possible topics: human cognition, artificial intelligence
Week 13: Numerical modeling and simulation
13.1 Modern modeling techniques
13.2 Case studies from the news
possible topics: Climate models, ecology topics
Week 14: Summary and exit interviews
The intended outcomes for students are:
 Comfort with numerical and quantitative information
 Ability to evaluate the quality of quantitative information
 Ability to incorporate quantitative information into decision making
 Ability to incorporate quantitative information into discourse
 Ability to estimate realistic solutions
 Ability to identify faulty or misleading quantitative information
 Basic literacy in a wide range of fundamental numerical techniques
 Understanding of the role of quantitative information in current issues
The efficacy of instruction with respect to these outcomes will be assessed using the group
problem sets, the final examination, and both group and individual exit interviews. Any
identifiable problems with acquisition of the intended outcomes will be addressed by changes
to subsequent iterations of the course.
Please note: Approved general education changes will take effect next fall.
General education instructors will be expected to provide sample assessment items and
corresponding responses to the Assessment Advisory Committee.