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Consortium for Mathematics and its Applications

Product ID: Biomath
High School

Habitat : An Organism's Environment (Student)

Author: Published by COMAP, Inc. in conjunction with DIMACS, Rutgers University.

What is the BioMath Connection (BMC) Project?

BMC was a pioneering project linking biology and mathematics in the high schools. It provided an opportunity for high school teachers, writers, researchers, and others to get in on the ground floor of developing innovative classroom materials. The materials consist of 20 modules that can be flexibly adapted for use in a variety of courses at a variety of grade levels in both biology and mathematics. The project was run by DIMACS at Rutgers University in collaboration with the Consortium for Mathematics and its Applications (COMAP) and Colorado State University (CSU).

As human populations increase and spread into areas shared with other organisms, more and more species are added to the endangered species list. As awareness increases about the impact of human activities on the environment, many questions are asked. Are there ways to lessen the negative impact that humans have on other organisms? Can human developments be designed to prevent the demise of other populations of organisms? If, for example, a community feels a golf course would be a nice addition, could it be built to limit its negative impact on other species or even possibly have a positive impact on the environment? In order to answer these questions, it is necessary first to understand the problem at a deeper biological level. Then, mathematical tools can be used to state the problem in precise language and to help one to arrive at a satisfactory solution.

This unit discusses issues of habitat suitability and ecological niche. Students will develop an understanding of one method for the evaluation of the influence of specific contributory habitat characteristics on species presence (e.g., availability of food resources, nesting sites, conspecific attraction, low predator density, etc.). This method will involve discussion of biotic and abiotic environmental factors, consideration of both numerical and categorical data, isolation of independent variables governing the dependent variable of habitat selection, and how to approximate those relationships by trend lines for use in either description of the observed species preferences, or to predict relative suitability of designed habitats for efforts in conservation and management.
Mathematics: This unit discusses quantitative analysis of observational data. Students will develop an understanding of the appropriateness of numerical versus categorical interpretations of functions and the potential effects of viewing data via both representations. Further, they will explore lines of best fit as a way to quantify the relationship between dependent and independent variables in a system. By creating scatter graphs, fitting lines to the observed data, and then formalizing the relationship into an equation for a line, they will understand the use of mathematical representations of causal/correlated outcomes and be able to use these model representations to describe current systems succinctly and, further, to predict the outcome of hypothetical scenarios.

An understanding of the concept of an organism and a species is useful.
Mathematics: Basic algebra to include solving linear equations and using both the point-slope and slope-intercept representations of a line.

This unit consists of 5 lessons, a lab, a project and an assessment. It will take 6-8 class periods (45-minutes each) if the majority of work is done during class.

©2015 by COMAP, Inc.
BioMath Student Edition
43 pages

Mathematics Topics:


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