M.A.T.H. Tips: Vol. 9

Best Practices for Engaging Students Online & In Class

647330231Lisa Rombes, Department Chair at Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor, Michigan shares advice with our M.A.T.H. Tips team.  Thank you Lisa, and we look forward to additional posts and tips from others. As a department chair and online advisory committee member with a lot of plates spinning in the air, I am always looking for “sure things” to help faculty stay on top of engaging their students. Here are some tips that I would share with any math instructor to keep the fire alive in the online (and traditional) classroom.

  • Think about ways to have students engage in the material before they begin a section/assignment (for online students) or before they come to class so that everyone is ready to learn. Smartbook readings provide this learning opportunity in many of our classes.
  • Watch for “reverse engineering” as a default strategy for students. Are they just following the procedures in online homework with different numbers each time? Look for ways to disrupt this: pool questions, randomize, rearrange them, etc.
  • Look for opportunities for students to explain their results and explain their thinking. Remember Bloom’s taxonomy? Aim for the higher level each class day or online module.
  • Opportunity for ungraded practice will make your students more confident. It is a challenge especially in the online classroom: students tend to do only what is required. So, maybe 5 points for practice as compared to 40 for homework?
  • Reacquaint yourself with formative assessment, your best (old) friend. Make a point to find out, as you are teaching, if students are really getting the concepts.  Entrance slips (to test an out-of-class prep assignment, video, reading, etc.) and Exit Slips (with one or two essential questions from that day) can provide a wealth of opportunity to plug holes in learning.
  • Make short videos in online classes based on most-missed practice questions. This will show you care enough to dig into their understanding, and you may just be surprised class to class what they are struggling with.
  • Think about metacognition: ask “What was difficult in this unit” or “How well prepared are you for this test”. Put the learning responsibility on the student.
  • Ask your publisher what tools THEY can provide to help you make the above happen in your classroom, online and face to face. New tools are coming out every year that can make this job easier.



Summer School Tips N’ Tricks

IS09AB4OZSummer is upon us and so is the start of summer classes. Whether it is shortened timelines or online classes summer courses have unique challenges. In this Tips n Tricks we present strategies to help your students get the most out of your summer course.

  1. Welcome Video – In online classes fostering a sense of community can be difficult. Try creating a short (3-5minutes) Welcome video, introducing yourself and your expectations for the course. Level up and ask your students to post their own introduction videos to the class discussion page!
  2. Daily Schedule Assignment – Summer courses tend to run on shortened schedules. Help your students manage their time by giving them a spreadheet time table and have them fill out their daily obligations. Seeing where they have free time helps students manage when they can study.
  3. Online study groups– Online students tend to do their work either late at night or early in the morning. Since we can’t always be online, help your students help themselves by creating online study group times. Using Google hangouts or Skype students can meet to work on homework and support each other through the course. This can also work for face-to face classes!
  4. Use mini-assignments – Rather than big weekly assignments daily mini-assignments can help students stay on-track. Use the online homework system to set up 10-15 question assignments that assess the material covered each day in class.
  5. Check-In emails – Summer classes require intense focus. Help make the class fun by sending out weekly check-in emails asking students how they are doing, including a fun math tip can help liven-up the mood. Alternatively, have a weekly check-in discussion thread where students can check-in with you and each other.


Read: Math Gets a Makeover

Dave_Sobecki_ORMATYCOne of our authors, Dave Sobecki, shared this article with us and his insights on the pathways movement. The attached photo is Dave and his wife at the recent ORMATYC conference.

“Sometimes you stumble across an article, and think “YES!”   When I saw this, I knew I had to share it with my colleagues who have been so instrumental in inspiring my work towards building new pathways for students in college math.  Over the last few years, I’ve had so many folks share their questions, their enthusiasm, their frustrations, and their triumphs as we work together to improve graduation rates nationwide.  There have been times when all of us have wondered if we’re really gaining traction, or just inching forward as the wheels spin furiously.  Reading this article made me feel like we’re making a difference, and that the tide has turned in our favor.  Enjoy, and please share with colleagues, believers, skeptics and pathways agnostics. There’s still a lot of work to be done! From the Chronicle of Higher Education April 16, 2017. The latest push to improve mathematics courses seeks to transform them from a gatekeeper to a gateway.  Read on: Math Gets a Makeover.

For your Beach or Poolside Adventures

141714338Whether lounging by the pool or at the beach, here are a few items that slip a little math into the day!  Or show these to your summer school students to lighten the mood and have them scour for some cool Math fashion statements.

  1. Math Formula Hand Towel: http://bit.ly/2qonPGa
  2. Geometric Print Beach Towel: http://bit.ly/2rULjkh
  3. Math Superpower Beach Towel: http://bit.ly/2pGWVKW
  4. Math Cheat Sheet Tote: http://amzn.to/2qcBZMj
  5. Come to the Math Side, We Have Pi Tote: http://bit.ly/2rmHSCv


ALEKS & CHBA Top Tips & Product Enhancements

MH_ALEKS_logoMcGraw-Hill Resources Added to ALEKS 360 Classes

Textbook-specific McGraw-Hill resources, such as workbooks and lecture notes, are now available to Higher Ed instructors in ALEKS 360 classes from the Resources page.  Selecting the McGraw-Hill Resources link on the Resources page of any ALEKS 360 class opens the textbook-specific resources in a pop-up.


New ALEKS Password System To align with the MHE privacy initiative and our commitment to the security of student data, ALEKS has created a new password system for the ALEKS and CHBA (Connect Hosted by ALEKS) platforms.

MH_ConnectMath_logoCHBA – Instructors can Bulk Edit Final Late Submission Dates

Instructors can bulk edit all assignment dates so that they can more easily manage assignments. From the Edit All Assignment Dates feature, instructors can set the Final Late Submission dates on qualified assignment types, so that all the rules regarding the Final Late Submission dates remain enforced.CHBA_Bulk_Edit_Late_Submission















New CHBA Password System To align with the MHE privacy initiative and our commitment to the security of student data, ALEKS has created a new password system for the ALEKS and CHBA (Connect Hosted by ALEKS) platforms.




Math in the Movies

Beautiful woman using tablet in library

Summer is blockbuster movie time. In addition to the traditional action flick, animated movies are now extremely popular. In this video Pixar researcher, Tony DeRose, explains how he uses Pascal’s triangles, polynomials, and limits to create the studio’s amazing animated worlds and characters.

Watch Here!