June 28, 2014, 9:57 am

By Robert Talbert

On Twitter this week, someone sent out a link to this survey from the NCTM asking users to submit their ideas for “grand challenges” for mathematics education in the coming years. I forget the precise definition and parameters for a “grand challenge” and I can’t go back to the beginning of the survey now that I’ve completed it, but the gist is that a grand challenge should be “extremely difficult but doable”, should make a positive impact on a large group of mathematics students, and should be grounded in sound pedagogical research.

To that list of parameters, I added that the result of any grand challenge should include a set of free, open-source materials or freely-available research studies that anyone can obtain and use without having to subscribe to a journal, belong to a particular institution, or use a particular brand of published curricula. In other words, one…

Read More

March 18, 2014, 4:34 pm

By Robert Talbert

Yesterday I got an email from a reader who had read this post called *What should math majors know about computing?* from 2007. In the original article, I gave a list of what computing skills mathematics majors should learn and when they should learn them. The person emailing me was wondering if I had any updates on that list or any new ideas, seven years on from writing the article.

If anything, over the past seven years, my feelings about the centrality of computing in the mathematics major have gotten even more entrenched. Mostly this is because of two things.

First, I know more computer science and computer programming now than I did in 1997. I’ve learned Python over the last three years along with some of its related systems like NumPy and SciPy, and I’ve successfully used Python as a tool in my research. I’ve taken a MOOC on algorithms and read, in whole or in part, books…

Read More

March 11, 2014, 2:34 pm

By Robert Talbert

In the previous post about the flipped/inverted calculus class, we looked at getting student buy-in for the flipped concept, so that when they are asked to do Guided Practice and other such assignments, they won’t rebel (much). When you hear people talk about the flipped classroom, much of the time the emphasis is on what happens *before* class – the videos, how to get students to do the reading, and so on. But the real magic is what happens *in* class when students come, prepared with some basic knowledge they’ve acquired for themselves, and put it to work with their peers on hard problems.

But before *this* happens, there’s an oddly complex buffer zone that students and instructors have to cross, and that’s the time when students arrive at the class meeting. *Really?* you are thinking. *How can arrival to class be such a complicated thing? They show up, you get to work, right?* Well…

Read More

March 6, 2014, 2:25 pm

By Robert Talbert

March 5, 2014, 2:37 pm

By Robert Talbert

In my last post about the inverted/flipped calculus class, I stressed the importance of **Guided Practice** as a way of structuring students’ pre-class activities and as a means of teaching self-regulated learning behaviors. I mentioned there was one important difference between the way I described Guided Practice and the way I’ve described it before, and it focuses on the learning objectives.

A clear set of learning objectives is at the heart of any successful learning experience, and it’s an essential ingredient for self-regulated learning since self-regulating learners have a clear set of criteria against which to judge their learning progress. And yet, many instructors – myself included in the early years of my career – never map out learning objectives either for themselves or for their students. Or, they do, and they’re so mushy that they can’t be measured – like any…

Read More

March 4, 2014, 2:59 pm

By Robert Talbert

This post continues the series of posts about the inverted/flipped calculus class that I taught in the Fall. In the previous post, I described the theoretical framework for the design of this course: self-regulated learning, as formulated by Paul Pintrich. In this post, I want to get into some of the design detail of how we (myself, and my colleague Marcia Frobish who also taught a flipped section of calculus) tried to build self-regulated learning into the course structure itself.

We said last time that self-regulated learning is marked by four distinct kinds of behavior:

- Self-regulating learners are an active participants in the learning process.
- Self-regulating learners can, and do, monitor and control aspects of their cognition, motivation, and learning behaviors.
- Self-regulating learners have criteria against which they can judge whether their current learning status is…

Read More

March 3, 2014, 9:00 am

By Robert Talbert

A few weeks ago I began a series to review the Calculus course that Marcia Frobish and I taught using the inverted/flipped class design, back in the Fall. I want to pick up the thread here about the unifying principle behind the course, which is the concept of **self-regulated learning**.

Self-regulated learning is what it sounds like: Learning that is initiated, managed, and assessed by the learners themselves. An instructor can play a role in this process, so it’s not the same thing as teaching yourself a subject (although all successful autodidacts are self-regulating learners), but it refers to how the individual learner approaches learning tasks.

For example, take someone learning about optimization problems in calculus. Four things describe how a self-regulating learner approaches this topic.

- The learner
**works actively** on optimization problems as the primary form of…

Read More

January 27, 2014, 7:55 am

By Robert Talbert

* As many Casting Out Nines readers know, last semester I undertook to rethink the freshman calculus 1 course here at my institution by converting it to an inverted or “flipped” class model. It’s been two months since the end of that semester, and this blog post is the first in a (lengthy) series that I’ll be rolling out in the coming weeks that lays out how the course was designed, what happened, and how it all turned out.*

Let me begin this series with a story about why I even bother with the flipped classroom.

The student in my programming class looked me straight in the eye and said, “I need you to lecture to me.” She said, “I can’t do the work unless someone tells me how to get started and then shows me how, step by step.” I took a moment to listen and think. “Do you mean that you find the work *hard* and it’s *easier* if someone tells you how to start and…

Read More

January 24, 2014, 8:03 am

By Robert Talbert

Here are some items from around the web for your weekend enjoyment.

## Math

- Here’s a great post on Medium by Nik Custodio in which he explains Bitcoin like I’m five. I think the audience level here is rather older than five, but it’s still probably the best explanation of the problems that Bitcoin attempts to solve, and how it solves them, that I’ve seen. (I wasn’t sure whether to file this under “Math” or “Technology” because it’s a lot of both.)

## Education

- If you’ve ever been interested in standards-based grading, you won’t want to miss Kate Owens’ post An Adventure in Standards-Based Calculus where she lays out why, and bits about “how”, she intends to use SBG in her Calculus 2 course this semester. Don’t miss the link to George McNulty’s calc 2 syllabus at the end, which is a great example of how to use SBG in actual practice.
- Good report…

Read More

December 29, 2013, 1:05 pm

By Robert Talbert

*After a bit of a hiatus, here is the newest installment in this Casting Out Nines’ series of ***4+1 Interviews**. In these interviews, I’ve tapped various people who are doing interesting work in some combination of math, technology, and education to see what they’re up to and what’s on their minds.

*In this interview, I had a chance to catch up with Gavin LaRose. Gavin is affiliated with the Mathematics Department at the University of Michigan. He is officially listed as a Program Manager of Instructional Technology in the Mathematics Department, but his areas of interest and accomplishment are a lot more varied than what that title suggests. He’s been involved with Project NExT and other programs in the MAA and is well known for his work with innovative pedagogy and instruction, especially instruction using technology, at U-M. *

**1. At the University of Michigan, you do some…**

Read More