M.A.T.H. Tips: Vol. 25

8 Essentials for Winter/Spring Success

The first few weeks of the semester are often a rush of learning names, student adds and drops, meetings, and general sett-up.  As things begin to settle down, here are a few simple tips to prepare for long-term success.

  1. Office Hours to Review Session – Rename a portion of your office hours as a review session. Students are often nervous to attend office hours but are often more comfortable coming to review sessions. These review sessions can be short, foundation material reviews, class content reviews, or exam reviews.  While you can leave it up to the students to pick a topic it is also a great idea to be prepared with common misconceptions or student errors that can be discussed.
  2. Rethink attendance – Students may dislike mandatory attendance policies, but they understand that coming to class benefits their learning. Rather than a daily attendance grade, change up your attendance options. Try giving students an extra credit on a test or homework for perfect or near perfect attendance. Giving pop-attendance quizzes. Or even give your students an option to choose which policy they prefer. See this article for more.
  3. Set email boundaries – While email is available 24/7, you don’t have to be. Setting student expectations for response times, either in the syllabus or in your LMS/CMS, can go a long way to helping you and students manage time better. Look into setting some boundaries with time frames and dates such as:  I will always respond within 24 hours and typically within a few hours M-F 9-6, Saturdays 10-2 and Sundays as needed based on course schedule.   Double check with your institution to see if there are required response times.
  4. Help students learn how to learn – Many students come to college not knowing the correct way to study. They understand how to memorize but memorization is not a skill that works well in most math classes. You can help student with study skills by integrating study skill assignments in the regular homework or even in class with a Learn-Test-Review example.
  5. Start with why – The common student phrase “why do I need to learn this?” can derail effective student learning. Including a short motivational example or story goes a long way to engaging student interest and setting up why a concept is useful.
  6. Time management scaffolding – Another area in which students are commonly weak is time management. You help students with time management by providing a sample study schedule, a review session on time management, or even by breaking out early assignments into smaller chunks due through the week.
  7. End of class summary quizzes – Rather than pop-quizzes at the beginning of class, try an end-of-class summary quiz that asks students to apply what they just learned to a problem similar to in class examples.
  8. The first month student learning survey – Student evaluations are notoriously poor indicators of student learning and teacher effectiveness. However, valuable information can be gained through tailored in class surveys focused on asking students about how they are learning and what they perceive as effective learning tools. Vanderbilt University has great examples

For more back-to-school inspiration for you and your students, you’ll find a variety of articles on the First Week of Class category on the Index.

5 Articles on Math Education and Pedagogy

Male professor in classroom imageKeeping on top of the expanding field of educational research could be a full-time job.  We can help you out! Here are five new articles on math education and changes in educational pedagogy that will take your teaching to the next level.

  1. On the link between curiosity and math
  2. Helping students take ownership of their education 
  3. On the persistence of learning styles
  4. The full 2018 report on students and technology in education
  5. An overview of what was trending in education in 2018

6 Apps to Rethink Student Learning

New Technology to Try in the Classroom for Quizzing, Time Management, and Group Work.

It seems that every day a new app appears to help with some facet of your life.  Many apps are tailored to in-classroom use but others, while business-focused, can also be used in the classroom setting. Here are six apps that you and your students can use to rethink how you approach learning.

  1. Quizzing – If you want to try real-time quizzing two apps can help. Both have a basic free service as well as educational pricing plans.
    1. Kahoot  is an online quizzing system that can be used for learning games and quizzes in class. No app is needed, and the basic version is free, with educational pricing plans available.
    2. Socrative  is also an online quizzing system created for the classroom, both instructors and students will need to download an app.

Check out https://bit.ly/2G1ELKI for suggestions of some math quizzes that you can use in your classroom.

  1. Time management – Everyone can benefit from improved time management skills. There are hundreds of apps available tow we suggest trying are Trello and 2Do.
    1. Trello uses cards that can be created with lists, deliverables, and due dates
    2. 2Do is a classic list time management system, that also includes due dates, prioritization tags.


  1. Group work – If your course includes group work and you want to keep track of everyone’s participation you can use one of the many group work applications.
    1. Slack is an app good for group communications and keeping records of who is responsible for which deliverable.
    2. Google Docs are great for change management and document sharing and group document work.


Just for Fun: Brilliant

If you like puzzles, problems of the day, or lifelong learning in the math and science realms, the website https://brilliant.org/  and accompanying app are worth a look. There are several levels of membership. There is a free course level where one can do lessons in the areas like

  • Logic
  • Computer and Science Fundamentals
  • Artificial Networks
  • Mathematical Fundamentals
  • Number Theory
  • Logic
  • Science Essentials
  • Geometry Fundamentals
  • Physics of the Everyday
  • Probability
  • Games of Chance
  • Statistics
  • Group Theory
  • Differential Equations

MANY MORE: This level also gives you access to two problems of the day and several days’ worth of archived problems. There are also monthly or annual memberships that give open access to the archive and to more lessons than the free version allows.

This is worth a look just for the problems of the day.



Read: The Housekeeper and the Professor

Beach_Winter_Red_LaptopThis 2003 novella from Japanese author Yoko Ogawa (translated by Steven Snyder) has a little bit of a Tuesdays with Morrie feel. The three major characters are a professor with a brain injur and the single mother and her son who take on the task of being the professor’s caregiver. The book is scattered with all your favorites from number theory: perfect numbers, amicable numbers, twin primes and Ruth-Aaron pairs to name a few. These are presented in a very clear manner for the non-math inclined. The professor helps the housekeeper and her son, who he nicknames “Root”, learn some of the interesting properties of numbers as they help him manage the daily functions of life that challenge him. There is also quite a bit of Japanese baseball scattered throughout.

The language is simple but beautiful…

“…as soon as the Professor would mention prime numbers, we would look at each other with conspiratorial smiles. Just as the thought of a caramel can cause your mouth to water, the mere mention of prime numbers made us anxious to know more about their secrets.”

“Solving a problem for which you know there’s an answer is like climbing a mountain with a guide, along a trail someone else has laid. In mathematics, the truth is somewhere out there in a place no one knows, beyond all the beaten paths. And it’s not always at the top of the mountain. It might be in a crack on the smoothest cliff or somewhere deep in the valley.”

The whole book can be completed in a long afternoon. The Japanese version won several book awards in that country. The translated version was a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice . The book was made into a Japanese language film “The Professor’s Beloved Equation”.