What is this?

In the summer of 2015, Tim Lewis, Becca Thomases and I, in collaboration with CEE (the Center for Educational Effectiveness) started a project with the aim of incorporating active learning and "hands on" examples in the Calculus for Life Sciences course (Math 17) at UC Davis.

This is the outcome of that project -- a series of worksheets to be completed in the weekly discussion sections.  Discussion sections are run in the "flipped classroom" model, where students complete the worksheets in groups of 3 or 4, and the TA and one to two Learning Assistants (LAs) circulate through the room, facilitating discussion and ensuring that the groups progress efficiently through the worksheet.

Most worksheets incorporate a programming component in R/R-studio.  We chose this programming language because (1) it is free; and (2) students who take statistics (required for bio majors) will use R/R-studio.

Does it work?

The worksheets are designed to connect abstract mathematical concepts to concrete physical, chemical and/or biological examples.  To date, over 1000 undergraduate students have used them in Math 17A, 17B and 17C. 

During the first year that the worksheets were implemented (2015-2016), we assessed their effectiveness.  We designed a 15-minute "quiz" that was given in Math 17 classes, some of which did not incorporate the worksheets and some that did.  Students completed the quiz during the first week of discussion and then, again, during the last week of discussion (week 10).

These are the results for two questions on the Math 17B assessment.  They demonstrate that students in classes that incorporate the worksheets are more able to solve applied calculus questions than students in classes that do not incorporate the worksheets.

Given these results, and our own experience, we believe that these worksheets do work.

R/R-studio resources

Instructions for downloading R/R-studio: (Mac, PC)

R/R-studio tutorial

17 A


Worksheets and related problems.  PDF

Zip file of TeX document and figures.

17 B


Worksheets and related problems.  PDF

Movies for the drip lab (weeks 2/3)

Movies for the gene lab (weeks 7/8)

Zip file of TeX document, figures and movie files.

People who contributed to the worksheets (besides me): Becca Thomases, Tim Lewis, Jamie Haddock, Will Wright, Korana Burke, Bob Guy.