Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Worksheet Wednesdays - Trigonometric Trickiness

For this week I have a fairly basic in-class trigonometry activity, having students develop a deep understanding of these ratios, and to use them in application questions. During lecture I completed a number of 'naked' examples, without an authentic context. Here I have them start solving application questions using trigonometry with some fairly basic questions. I do include one question that increases the difficulty, but with a few hints dropped students seemed to get the basic idea.

As students work on in-class activities I usually go around the room and answer any questions they have. I do so using the Socratic Method, answering their questions with questions. They usually find this annoying, me answering their questions with questions, but over time I have noticed that students become more thoughtful with their questions. They anticipate how I will answer their questions, and so modify their phrasing so they are not just asking for numbers of values, but for methods. Near the end of an activity I will hear many more "How do I..." type questions than "What is the value for...". This demonstrates a greater appreciation of method, something I think is the goal of all mathematics educators.

Right Triangle Trigonometry - Students first confirm a few trigonometric ratios for a randomly drawn right triangle, and then answer a few application questions. Granted, it is only two pages, but if this is done the first day the sine, cosine, and tangent functions are defined, it will take 30 minutes to 1 hour.

If you have any feedback, or if you use these worksheets, let me know! Feel free to post a comment below, or email me directly.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Worksheet Wednesdays - Sequences and Series In-Class Activities

This is the inaugural post of Worksheet Wednesdays where I will post some of the worksheets, in-class activities, quizzes, and other assessment items I have develop in teaching college mathematics courses. Today will be a twofer, two in-class activities for my Calculus III course.

I have students start in-class activities during class, but they are free to complete them afterwards. In order to receive credit for completing them I have them show it to me before the next test. When they do I usually go over it with them, providing for some 1-on-1 feedback and developing a repertoire with them. So far this has worked out well for three of my classes, but as I write this it is only Week 2 so that may change. Anyway, on to the worksheets!

Monotonic and Bounded - This activity walks students through a variety of sequences and introduces the idea of monotonic and bounded sequences. They then classify each of those sequences as monotonic and bounded and then see if these sequences are convergent. Students should identify the pattern that all sequences that are monotonic and bounded are convergent, but it is not necessary for a convergent sequence to be monotonic or bounded.

Integral Test - From lecture it was clear that students' integration skills were a bit rusty, if not a bit poor. Thus I created this in-class activity to get students to practice their indefinite, definite, and improper integration skills, and to use the integral test of convergence of a series. There are a few curve balls, and we had a good discussion of how to deal with them.

If you have any feedback, or if you use these worksheets, let me know! Feel free to post a comment below, or email me directly.

Friday, April 11, 2014

In-Class Activities: A Well I Have Fallen Into

This term I am utilizing in-class activities in all four of my classes in various ways. Previously I've used them only in special cases where the topic is best understood by a hands-on demonstration of the concept. After teaching with a flipped classroom model developed by another faculty member, I am becoming more comfortable with students discovering the material in-class, as opposed to me telling students what the ideas are.

College Mathematics - This is the course I taught last term that utilized a flipped classroom model. Students are to print out handouts before class, take a pre-quiz, come to class, work on the handouts in groups, complete the handouts at home, and take a post-quiz within 24 hours after class. They repeat this for a number of handouts, and also have group tests, tests, and homework. Initially I was worried about, well, everything. Students not showing up, not understanding, waiting for me to tell them what to do, etc. It all happened, but those students who would have done well in a traditional class did well here. Those that would not have done well in a  traditional course... I'm not sure if they did any better using this model. The freedom that students are allowed in this format presents them with a choice, to put the time into understand the material, or not. But this is the choice all students have in any course. At this point I see this method doing no harm, and possibly helping students understand the material a bit better.

Trigonometry/Pre-Calculus - This is a 5 credit hour course that meets twice a week, meaning two and a half hour class meetings. To break up lectures I'm using in-class activities to have students develop concepts, or to gain practice with different skills. The first two had students developing the graphs of trigonometric functions. Students were initially resistant, but during the summation of the activity they were able to answer questions students in previous classes were not.

Calculus I - I'm using the POGIL activities (link to come) another instructor recommended. There are only three in the course, but if the first activity is any indication, I think they'll do well.

Calculus III - Weekly activities meant to simulate a structured recitation. The activities have been successful, but the time it takes to develop them is considerable.

I will be posting these activities in my upcoming Worksheet Wednesdays. Feel free to download them, use them, and send along any feedback.