Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


College of Science and Mathematics


Chemistry and Biochemistry

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Nina M. Goodey

Committee Member

Jaclyn Catalano

Committee Member

Jim Dyer


Biochemistry graduates pursuing research-related careers must master basic quantitative skills. Laboratory courses present students opportunities to practice lab math skills such as dilution and solution calculations. Employers and researchers have reported inadequate math skills among bioscience graduates and there is a need to evaluate the effectiveness of laboratory teaching approaches in increasing students’ lab math skills. In this threeyear study, we examined the impact of guided-inquiry learning on students’ ability to perform laboratory calculations required for experimental design. An upper-level undergraduate biochemistry laboratory course was divided into sections taught using an inquiry approach where students design their own experiments or a cookbook approach where protocols are provided. We wrote a Lab Math Test to measure students’ lab math skills and administered this test as pre- and post-assessment to students in all sections. Students’ lab math skills significantly improved from pre- to posttest scores for inquiry sections (1.18 ± 0.25 (SE) to 4.22 ± 0.37 (SE)) compared to cookbook sections (1.10 ± 0.18 (SE) to 2.89 ± 0.25 (SE)), suggesting that the inquiry approach was more effective in increasing students’ lab math skills. Data showed significantly higher long-term gains for students in inquiry sections during a project-based research experience in the subsequent course. Inquiry learning can lead to a more engaging laboratory course experience and also have the positive side effect of increasing students’ basic lab math skills

Included in

Biochemistry Commons