Quantitative Methods, ENSP 202, Spring 2017

Instructor Professor Daniel Soto
Office Rachel Carson Hall 12
Email sotod@sonoma.edu
Meeting Time M/W 10:45 am - 12:00 pm
Classroom ETC (Environmental Technology Center)
Units 3
Teaching Assistant Austin Beach, Melanie Nernberg

Office Hours

Signup is online and can be accessed through my website http://danielrsoto.com

Course Description

Lectures and workshop designed to enhance students' confidence in analytical problem solving. Essential techniques emphasizing environmental applications: translating knowledge into abstract and mathematical models, numerical estimates, basic geometry and trigonometry, dimensional analysis, unit conversions, interpreting statistical data, and graphic display of information. Conceptual introduction to calculus, differential equations, and complex numbers. Prerequisites: ENSP majors or minors; completion or concurrent enrollment in GE Area B4 (Math Concepts).

Course Learning Objectives

  • Increase confidence in the use of mathematics
  • Development of model thinking and quantitative estimation skills
  • Development of quantitative critical thinking skills
  • Development of quantitative communication skills

By completing the work in this course, you will develop the skills above. These skills will allow you to make and defend quantitative estimates with limited information. You will also be able to devise strategies to make well-defined estimates to answer questions. Lastly, you will be able to evaluate the quantitative claims of others in your professional, personal, and civic lives.

Topic Learning Objectives

Estimations and Models

  • Able to form plausible quantitative estimates with very little specific information given.
  • Communicate clearly the assumptions and method of an estimation
  • Recognize the use of models in estimation and calculations
  • Identify type of model being used in an estimation

Place Value

  • Use concepts of place value to correctly use scientific notation
  • Use concepts of place value to convert between different base systems of numbers
  • Convert between decimal numbers and scientific notation
  • Describe how much less information each successive significant figure provides

Units and Dimensions

  • Recognize that physical quantities require a magnitude, dimension, and unit
  • Able to convert quantities of the same dimension to different units
  • Able to use dimensions as an analytical tool
  • Use the factor-label method to convert units
  • Recognize unit-conversion factors as having a value of one

Linear and proportional models

  • Able to extrapolate from proportions
  • Conceptual understanding of y-intercept
  • Recognize physical systems with linear models
  • Able to articulate the meaning of a slope for specific applications

Areas and Volumes

  • Able to estimate areas and volumes of physical objects
  • Able to convert between different units for areas and volumes
  • Able to apply area and volume models to other quantities and estimations
  • Use an appropriate model to find an equivalent area or volume to an area or volume of interest

Exponential models

  • Define exponential growth in terms of uniform relative increase and doubling time
  • Recognize estimations that require exponential model
  • Infer growth rates from graphs
  • Predict future values from exponential graphs

Class Texts

There are no required texts for this course. Any readings will be supplied online or in the course notes. The course notes are available online and can be found here.

Course Requirements

This course will have homework assignments, in-class activities, quizzes, exams, as well as readings and essays. All of these assignments are designed to develop your quantitative reasoning skills.

You are required to buy a one-semester subscription to a tool we will use called SageMathCloud.

Classroom Work, Activities, and Quizzes

By participating in classroom work regularly, you will gain skills you need to collaborate with others on problem solving. This classroom work may take the form of writing exercises, group exercises, or quizzes. If you have an unexcused absence on the day of work, you will not receive credit for that day's assignment.

Quizzes will often be taken in groups, with the group turning in a single quiz based on consensus and receiving the same grade. We will grade the quizzes as you are taking them and give you multiple opportunities to achieve the correct answer. You will get full credit on your first try and a reduction in credit for each additional attempt.


By completing the homework regularly, you will develop skills necessary to take a question, create a strategy, and get estimate for the answer. You will also develop your ability to communicate and explain these estimates in writing. Your problem sets will be graded on the clarity of communication as much as the correctness of the result. The point of most quantitative work is not only to arrive at an answer but to communicate the answer to others.

The work you produce in this class will be practice for the work you will do in the professional world. Your homework assignments will often be typeset, printed, and turned in. Your calculations should be performed using a program where the details of the calculation are recorded. We will be using a program called Jupyter to perform these assignments.

You are encouraged to work in teams and discuss the strategies and even numerical answers you are getting. You are strongly discouraged from looking at other students completed assignments. If you look at your classmates completed work, you are denying yourself the opportunity to construct the solution on your own and this will prevent you from developing your skills.

Questions: You will often have questions on homework. Please post these to the class news forum on Moodle so that everyone can see them. It is also possible that your classmates can answer more quickly than I can.

Evaluation: It is important that you be able to evaluate the estimations that others create. To practice this skill, you will frequently read, evaluate, and provide constructive feedback on the work of others in the class as part of the grading process.

Grading: Homework will be graded pass or fail. In order to earn a pass the work must

  • Be submitted on time
  • Demonstrate a good-faith effort to complete the assignment
  • Show evidence of meeting the learning objective of the assignment
  • Not substantially resemble another student's work

Additionally, you should strive to reach the following goals:

  • Be sufficiently clear that the reader can immediately understand your work.
  • Explain with prose enough of your approach for the reader to follow your methods and reasoning
  • Follow conventions of units, scientific notation, and mathematical notation
  • Allow the reader reproduce your work and calculations

Challenging Homeworks: Some of the homeworks will be significantly more difficult in order to challenge you, stretch your abilities, and demonstrate mastery of the course material. These problems will be clearly marked as challenging.


The letter grade in the class will be assigned according to the following criteria. Please keep an organized index and folder of all of your classwork, exams, and quizzes in case of any grading discrepancies.


  • Quiz and exam average of 60% or above
  • Satisfactorily complete over 60% of homework assignments


  • Quiz and exam average of 70% or above
  • Satisfactorily complete over 70% of homework assignments


  • Quiz and exam average of 70% or above
  • Satisfactorily complete over 80% of homework assignments
  • Complete 2 challenging homework assignments


  • Quiz and exam average of 80% or above
  • Satisfactorily complete over 90% of homework assignments
  • Complete 5 challenging homework assignments

Late Work

You will get six passes which allow you to take a quiz alone despite your absence or turn in a homework up to one week late, or to redo an assignment that wasn't satisfactory. Use them wisely.

Course Schedule

  • Week 1: Introduction
  • Week 2: Computational Tools
  • Week 3: Models and Estimations
  • Week 4: Place Value and Exponential Notation
  • Week 5: Quantities, Units, and Dimensions
  • Week 6: Midterm
  • Week 7: Linear Functions
  • Week 8: Areas and Volumes
  • Week 9: Exponential Functions
  • Week 10: Concentrations
  • Week 11: Midterm
  • Week 12: Concentrations
  • Week 13: Stocks and Flows
  • Week 14: Statistics

Due Dates

  • Sun 29 Jan 2017 11:59 pm, HW1 Twenty Questions
  • Sun 5 Feb 2017 11:59 pm, HW2 Sage Math Cloud
  • Sun 12 Feb 2017 11:59 pm, HW3 Models and Estimations
  • Sun 19 Feb 2017 11:59 pm, HW4 Article
  • Tue 21 Feb 2017 11:59 pm, HW5 Place Value
  • Tue 21 Feb 2017 11:59 pm, HWC01 Place Value Challenging
  • Fri 10 Mar 2017 11:59 pm, HW7 Linear Functions
  • Fri 10 Mar 2017 11:59 pm, HWC02 Linear Functions
  • Sun 26 Mar 2017 11:59 pm, HW08 Areas and Volumes
  • Sun 26 Mar 2017 11:59 pm, HW08C Areas and Volumes Challenging
  • Sun 02 Apr 2017 11:59 pm, HW09 Exponential Functions
  • Sun 02 Apr 2017 11:59 pm, HW09C Exponential Functions
  • Wed 26 Apr 2017 11:59 pm, RR01 Barbara Oakley 3-4 Reading and Essay
  • Wed 3 May 2017 11:59 pm, RR02 Science Curiosity Reading and Essay


Excused Absences: I grant excused absences when I receive a notification before the start of class with a brief and compelling reason for the absence. You do not need to reveal any personal information in your reason. You can find a link for our absence form here.

Respectful tone in classroom: Civility is required from all students during discussions and interactions. In general, I expect students to be supportive of each others learning goals.

Minimize electronic distractions: An important skill is self-regulation against distractions. Electronic devices are a potent source of distraction. However, we will not ban their use since they can be productive. We will frequently use Internet-connected electronic devices (phones, tablets) for learning purposes. However, using devices for social networks or other uses during class time is strongly discouraged.

Willingness to take risks and experiment: I frequently try new approaches to teaching and learning that you may find unusual. These are always with the intention of making this class as beneficial to you as possible.

University Policies

There are important University policies that you should be aware of, such as the add/drop policy; cheating and plagiarism policy, grade appeal procedures; accommodations for students with disabilities and the diversity vision statement. Go to this URL to find them. http://www.sonoma.edu/uaffairs/policies/studentinfo.shtml