December 18, 2012, 4:17 pm
I’m excited and happy to be teaching linear algebra again next semester. Linear algebra has it all — there’s computation that you can do by hand if you like that sort of thing, but also a strong incentive to use computers regularly and prominently. (How big is an incidence matrix that represents, say, Facebook?) There’s theory that motivates the computation. There’s computation that uncovers the theory. There’s something for everybody, and in the words of one of my colleagues, if you don’t like linear algebra then you probably shouldn’t study math at all.
Linear algebra is also an excellent place to use Peer Instruction, possibly moreso than any other sophomore-level mathematics course. Linear algebra is loaded with big ideas that all connect around a central question (whether or not a matrix is invertible). The computation is not the hard part of linear algebra — it…
January 17, 2012, 8:00 am
Peer Instruction has gotten a lot of attention lately thanks to this NPR piece, “Physicists Seek to Lose the Lecture as a Learning Tool”. Now, Eric Mazur — widely credited with the invention of peer instruction — is helping to create an online community of peer instruction users at peerinstruction.net.
If you go to that web site and click “Join”, you’ll be taken to a Google Documents form that asks for some basic demographics, and you’ll be added to a mailing list. The site has not officially launched yet, but from my Twitter stream there appears to be some considerable interest.
I’m hopeful that peerinstruction.net will be a good resource and, especially, a support group and collaboration incubator for PI users across multiple disciplines. I especially hope there are some resources for helping students and university administrators learn about PI.
October 25, 2011, 7:30 am
I just gave midterm evaluations in my classes, and for the item about “What could we be doing differently to make the class better?”, many students put down: Do more examples at the board. I think I’ve seen that request more often than any other in my classes at midterm. This is a legitimate request (it’s not like they’re asking for free points or an extra day in the weekend), but honestly, I’m hesitant to give in to it. Why? Two reasons.
First, doing more examples at the board means more lecturing, therefore less active learning, and therefore more passivity and dependence by students on authority. That’s bad. Second, we can’t add more time to the meetings, so doing more examples means either going through them in less detail or else using examples that are overly simple. In the first case, we have less time for questions and deep thought, and therefore more passivity and dependence….
October 16, 2010, 1:47 pm
This post at ProfHacker reminded me to write about something I’m trying this semester in my calculus classes (the only freshman-level class I have right now). I’m giving not one but four course evaluations during the semester. I’ve given midterm evaluations on occasion in the past, but it seemed to me that even twice a semester isn’t really enough. So, I’m giving evaluations at the end of the third, sixth, ninth, and twelfth weeks of the semester.
The first three of these are informal and very loosely structured. They each have three basic questions:
- What do you LOVE about this course?
- What do you HATE about this course?
- If you could change ONE THING about this course, what would it be?
The 6- and 9-week evaluations have two additional questions: What’s changed for the BETTER since the last evaluation? and What’s changed for the WORSE since the last evaluation? In week 12,…