blaire van valkenburgh

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Blaire Van Valkenburgh in Ed Surge: UCLA Life Sciences Revamped How It Teaches Math. Is It an Example Others Should Follow?

LS 30 focused on modeling that’s grounded in biological examples—like understanding the feedback dynamics of shark-tuna populations. It assumes no background in calculus and it limits its teaching to the programming and math concepts that are necessary for practical modeling.

Ultimately, argues Van Valkenburgh, the new program seems to have instilled confidence in students about their quantitative skills, as well as motivated them to pick those skills up by grounding lessons in problems they cared about solving. In short, it also helped to answer that commonly asked “why even bother learning this?” question.

Van Valkenburgh, who recently retired, reflects that advancing the course was “probably the most important [non-academic] thing I did.”