M.A.T.H. Tips: Vol. 28

Just for Fun: Let’s Volunteer this Summer

It’s the last day of class. What do you and your students have planned for the summer? More school? A part-time job or internship? How about a nice, long, quiet vacation or binge watching the latest hit show? These are common ways to keep your summer days full, but have you ever thought about volunteering? Or better yet, encouraged your students to volunteer?

Volunteering is one of the most satisfying ways to pay it forward, and luckily there are plenty of ways to share our time with others. Plus, for your students it certainly doesn’t hurt to have it listed on their resumes or to make use of the networking opportunities.

Check out these volunteer search engines for a way to pay it forward:

Student Legacy Letters

By: Kelly Jackson

As you wrap up your spring term, you’re probably noticing many of your students have one foot out the door. But, there are still some ways you can hold their attention before they flee for summer break! A great wrap-up exercise is to have your students write a short note, otherwise known as a Legacy Letter, to the students in your next class, whether the summer or fall term, that gives them advice and tips on how to be successful in your class.

This exercise is helpful in two ways. First, it gets students thinking about what behaviors they used to make them successful and maybe what behaviors had them fall short. For example, you’ll typically get “Don’t procrastinate,” “Homework…just do it.” or “Watch the due dates!” But some students can be very insightful about what made them successful. It also helps students think about what they’ll do in their next class, learning from what worked and what didn’t work.

For the next class, hand out a copy of the tips and advice on the first day; it’s even more impactful if you provide them in the students’ own handwriting. That is important! Don’t just quote them, show their words. No matter how many times you, the instructor, emphasize the importance of attendance or homework, receiving the advice “whatever you do, don’t cut class” or “the tests are so much easier if you do the online work” from a peer student can make a much bigger impact!

Here are a few articles encouraging the practice of a legacy letter:


Read: Weapons of Math Destruction, by Cathy O’Neil

In Weapons of Math Destruction O’Neil offers a look at how algorithms are being used to regulate people. For example, if an inmate is up for parole, a computer algorithm might be used to determine their fate. If you’ve ever wondered how Amazon tells you what “you might like” or how Facebook puts ads in your feed, this book will be useful. Where it is really frightening is how it reveals statistical profiling.

In Weapons of Math Destruction O’Neil offers a look at how algorithms are being used to regulate people. For example, if an inmate is up for parole, a computer algorithm might be used to determine their fate. If you’ve ever wondered how Amazon tells you what “you might like” or how Facebook puts ads in your feed, this book will be useful. Where it is really frightening is how it reveals statistical profiling.

O’Neil describes herself as “a mathematician turned quant turned data scientist.” She earned a Ph.D. in mathematics from Harvard and taught at Barnard College before moving to the private sector, where she worked for a hedge fund. She has a website where she lists “math-y” books she finds cool, among other things. She also has several books on data science and being skeptical of data.

Available on: Amazon and Goodreads

Changing the Education Game with ALEKS Insights

Changing the Education Game with ALEKS Insights

You may have heard that McGraw-Hill’s ALEKS program won a 2019 Digital Edge 50 Award, but did you know why? Imagine if your adaptive learning platform automatically alerted you to risky student learning behavior… before it was too late!

Available in mid-June, ALEKS Insights is the latest tool that uses artificial intelligence to analyze student performance data and “nudge” instructors with alerts that indicate which students are showing risky behaviors. Instructors can then use this information to work with those students.

The tool highlights to instructors the following potential problem areas to instructors:

  • Topics Failed: Content students have attempted multiple times without success.
  • Learning Decreased: Students who show a significant drop in successful learning despite continuous time spent in the system.
  • Unusual Learning: Students who show a significant increase compared to previous learning, which may signify students not doing their own work.
  • Procrastination & Cramming: Students whose time spent in ALEKS varies, showing long periods of inactivity followed by high bursts of activity.

CLICK HERE to get a sneak peek at how ALEKS Insights will work. You can also  learn more about the research behind ALEKS Insights.

Writing Over the Summer

How many of us plan to write over the summer, get started, and then get distracted by other concerns? The cycle of intention, distraction, and frustration can be broken! 

Here are a few quick tips to help you focus and complete your writing this summer.

  • Try a writing workshop – While many summer workshops focus on creative writing, there are several that are open to all types of writers.  Find one for non-fiction writers, unless of course you are writing a math thriller!
  • Find a writing coach – Sometimes all we need is a little accountability. Having a writing coach that can give us weekly tasks can go a long way to helping us achieve our writing goals.
  • Join a local writers group – Joining a writers group gives you a support system to encourage you through procrastination and writer’s block, and can help you improve your writing with feedback. 
  • Get out of the house – Sometimes being at home is our worst enemy for writing with all the little distractions around us. Getting out to a coffee shop or co-working space a few times a week can be enough to keep us on the path to completion.
  • Use the “15 minutes a day” method – For years the advice to grad students on dissertation writing has been “write for 15 minutes a day” … small forward progress is better than no progress.  Set a timer and write, even if you only write a few sentences or jot down an outline, the daily practice will help set you up for success.
  • Bring fresh eyes and perspective to the table – Sometimes working too much on our writing can do more harm than good. If you find yourself staring at your draft more than typing, take a break for a few days. When you get back to your draft, you’ll see things you haven’t noticed before and feel re-energized.