August 13, 2012, 8:00 am
Allow me to make a shameless plug for a very cool project currently underway by my GVSU colleague Matt Boelkins. He is writing a free, open-source calculus textbook that will be available in PDF form online for anyone to use and for any instructor to modify. He has already written the differential calculus portion of the textbook — his Winter semester sabbatical project — and he’s about to begin work on the integral calculus portion. You can download the differential calculus parts here. This is at his blog, where he is promoting the book and soliciting feedback. Matt’s also on Twitter.
Matt and I have talked about this project a lot in the last several months, and I’m deeply impressed by his vision for what this resource could become. He sums it up in this blog post:
While on sabbatical during the winter semester of 2012, I began drafting a free, open-source calculus text….
July 16, 2012, 3:02 pm
USA Today has this op-ed (h/t to Joanne Jacobs) from Patrick Welsh giving thoughts on why kids hate math:
I worry that we’re pushing many kids to grasp math at higher levels before they are ready. When they struggle, they begin to dread math, and eventually we lose thousands of students who could be the scientists and engineers of tomorrow. If we held back and took more time to ground them in the basics, we could turn them on to math.
We’re asking young kids to move up in mathematics too far, too soon, in other words. Patrick goes on to focus especially on a push in California to get more younger kids taking Algebra and cross-references it with a Duke University study showing negative effects of the same sort of program in North Carolina.
I’m in complete agreement with this op-ed, although thankfully I haven’t felt that push so much with my own kids, ages 3, 6, and 8. There have…
July 3, 2012, 9:08 am
At some point around the beginning of February 2012, David Coffey — a co-worker of mine in the math department at Grand Valley State University and my faculty mentor during my first year — mentioned something to me in our weekly mentoring meetings. We were talking about screencasting and the flipped classroom concept, and the conversation got around to Khan Academy. Being a screencaster and flipped classroom person myself, we’d talked about making screencasts more pedagogically sound many times in the past.
That particular day, Dave mentioned this idea about projecting a Khan Academy video onto the screen in a classroom and having three of us sit in front of it, offering snarky critiques — but with a serious mathematical and pedagogical focus — in the style of Mystery Science Theater 3000. I told him to sign me up to help, but I got too busy to stay in the loop with it.
June 29, 2012, 2:23 pm
So, the six-week Calculus 2 class is over with — that didn’t take long — and there’s beginning to be enough distance between me and the course that I can begin to evaluate how it all went. Summer classes for me are a time when I like to experiment with things, and I wanted to comment on the outcomes of one experiment I tried this time, which is using a bring-your-own-device setup for clicker questions.
I’ve been using TurningPoint clickers ever since I started doing peer instruction, and I recommend these devices highly. They have a lot going for them in terms of classroom technology: They are small and unobtrusive, relatively cheap ($35), exceedingly simple to use, rely on no pre-existing infrastructure (for example, whether or not you have decent wifi in the room), and are nearly indestructible. They are about as simple, dependable, and inexpensive as a radio-operated garage door…
June 12, 2012, 7:00 am
The first speaker in the Model-Eliciting Activities (MEA’s) session Monday morning said something that I’m still chewing on:
Misunderstanding is easier to correct than misconception.
She was referring to the results of her project, which took the usual framework for MEA’s and added a confidence level response item to student work. So students would work on their project, build their model, and when they were done, give a self-ranking of the confidence they had in their solution. When you found high confidence levels on wrong answers, the speaker noted, you’ve uncovered a deep-seated misconception.
I didn’t have time, but I wanted to ask what she felt the difference was between a misunderstanding and a misconception. My own answer to that question, which seemed to fit what she was saying in the talk, is that a misunderstanding is something like an incorrect interpretation of an idea …
June 5, 2012, 8:00 am
I haven’t given many updates lately about, well, anything, but especially about my Calculus 2 class. Freakishly, we are 2/3 of the way through the course now. First of all let me say that there’s something seriously wrong with having a midterm in a class after three weeks, and then a final exam three weeks later. Students should have more time to dread those things.
I kid, but actually the biggest adjustment I’ve made in the class — and teaching a class that’s as compressed as this one is all about paying close attention to everything that happens and being nimble about making adjustments — has been the testing scheme. I know that I posted earlier about my idea of having in-class assessments that were smaller than the usual test, more frequent, and which leveraged student collaboration and the real-life social network of the class. But after a couple of tries with this, I dropped it…
May 14, 2012, 7:30 am
Week 1 of the 6-week Calculus 2 course is over, and of course it felt like 2.5 weeks of class because that’s the exchange rate between this course and a normal 14-week course. It was challenging for the students, but I feel like they are on board with what we’re doing. I was especially pleased with the outcome of one of the distinctives of this class: the in-class assessments which are called, er, Assessments.
I said at the outset that the key thing with this class was to force the issue on assimilation of material, and part of that was to engage in early, small, and frequent assessment. For formative assessment, we do daily online homework and clicker questions. There’s no requirement to get clicker questions right at all, and WeBWorK sets have no limits on number of attempts or the amount of collaboration or technology used. For summative assessment, we have a midterm exam and a…
May 8, 2012, 12:52 pm
I blog a lot about peer instruction, but I think this screenshot from this morning’s Calculus 2 class is worth 1000 of my blog posts about just how effective a teaching technique PI can be. It’s from a question about average value of a function. Just before this question was a short lecture about average value in which I derived the formula and did an example with a graph of data (not as geometrically regular as the one you see below). I used Learning Catalytics to set up the question as Numerical, which means that student see the text and the picture on their devices along with a text box in which to enter what they think is the right answer. (I.e. it’s not multiple choice.) Here are the results of two rounds of voting (click to enlarge):
After the first round of voting, there were 12 different numerical answers for 23 students! (Some of these would be the same answer if students …
May 7, 2012, 8:58 pm
Today we started the spring term, 6-week Calculus 2 class that I’ve been writing about for the last few days. We had a good time today, getting comfortable with each other and doing some review of the basics of the definite integral. Before we get too far into the term, I wanted to outline the technology infrastructure of the course.
For a long time, I’d used the learning management system (LMS) of my institution as the basic technology for the course, and everything else kind of fit around the LMS. At GVSU the default LMS is Blackboard. But I decided after used Blackboard this past year that we have irreconcilable differences. I don’t ask much from my LMS; I mainly use it to archive files, provide a link to a central calendar, post grades, and to make announcements. I don’t need all the dozens of other features Blackboard offers, and the profusion of features in Blackboard tends to…
May 4, 2012, 4:00 pm
Sorry for the boring title and lack of catchy image, but since my first post about the upcoming six-week Calculus 2 course, I’ve expended all my creativity getting the course put together and getting ready for Monday. In the earlier post I laid down some design ground rules for the course. Here, I’m going to say a little more in detail about what we’ll be doing.
It’s especially important on a highly compressed schedule like ours to use the class meetings themselves to jumpstart the assimilation process and then train students on how to carry that process forward as they go to work on the day’s material in the afternoon and evening. This is always an important goal of class meetings in any course — I’d go as far as to say that this is why we have class meetings at all. But when you cram a 14-week course into 6 weeks, it doesn’t take long for one incorrectly-assimilated concept to…