We suggest that it is appropriate to follow the Competency Test procedure developed at the University of Nevada at Reno through its Mathematics Across the Curriculum Project. See their Home Page for details on Competency Testing. This involves giving a simple test at the very beginning of each course, including questions of a quantitative nature and dealing with biological topics related to those in the course. The mathematical level of the test is at the level that an instructor would expect each student to have prior to taking the course, and the student would have to pass this exam with a very high grade before being given a passing grade in the course. The goals here are to: (i) inform students at the beginning of a course exactly what types of math they are expected to already be able to do; (ii) help students be informed about exactly what concepts they don't have a grasp of, so they can go back and refresh their memory; and (iii) ensure that the class is not held back through having to review material that the students should know upon entering. For results of the first round of competency exams given to general biology students, see the above poster.
We have utilized the competency tests in numerous offerings of the two general biology courses for Biology majors offered here: Cell Biology and Biodiversity. A complete report on the results of these evaluations is here.
A statistical and mathematical appendix to the lab manual for the Cell Biology portion of the general biology sequence at the University of Tennessee was constructed to ease the use of these methods within lab sections. Lab instructors can refer students to these sections for the many lab projects which require the use of basic statistics and math. Included are biological examples of applications of the methods discussed. Written by Susan Harrell as a supplement to the Lab manual composed by Dr. Otto Schwarz and used by approximately 1000 students per year at UT.