Sheryl A. DeCaprio
Students may recall teachers and friends commenting on how much they resemble an older brother or sister. Similar eye coloring, shape of a nose, and special talents are easily identified within a family group. Children readily understand that although family members differ in temperament and attitudes, they are very much alike in particular physical characteristics. This non-verbal understanding of family similarities can help students learn about genetics, and about how their math skills can be applied when studying the science.
A fundamental knowledge of the vocabulary used in the science is needed to begin this mathematical study of genetics. I will explain a few of the basic concepts, how they were derived from the experiments of Gregor Mendel, a 19th century botanist, and how they can be applied in lessons for a mathematics class. I would recommend the instructor become familiar with the information and refer you to a book written by Allen Vegotsky and Cynthia A. White entitled a
Programmed Approach to Human Genetics
(see bibliography). The text is written in a straightforward, sequential manner for the independent reader and gives an understandable explanation of the information needed.
This unit is designed to be presented as a set of extension lessons with practical applications for problem solving dealing with ratios, proportions, percentages, data analysis, and chart and graph reading. The target groups are 7th and 8th grade math students. The information may be used as supplemental lessons showing application of mathematical skills. Upon completion of this study students should:
1) understand the process by which genes of parents are transferred to their offspring.
2) understand the difference between a dominant and recessive trait and understand how the presence of a trait may effect the physical characteristics of an individual.
3) be able to complete a Punnet Square given the genotype of parents (i.e. determine the possible genotypes of their offspring).
4) read and/or construct a pedigree chart mapping a specific trait in a family.
5) determine the probability of a certain phenotype being expressed in an individual.
6) be aware of the integral role of mathematics in science.
The unit is divided into four categories; 1) the effect of Gregor Mendel’s research and the laws he developed that govern genetics today. This section will introduce the basic vocabulary and an explanation of the process of gene transference, 2) the development of Punnet Squares to determine the probability of specific genotypes occurring, 3) the reading and construction of pedigree charts mapping specific traits in a family and 4) a glossary of terms and set of sample lessons.