M.A.T.H. Tips: Vol. 3

We’ve hit that point in the semester when students are realizing that their hard work is paying off, or that they need to make some adjustments to achieve the results they want. Enjoy the latest M.A.T.H. tips and put your spin on them. Most of all, share your tips for upcoming issues; we want to hear what’s working best for you!


Midterm Mayhem Best Practices
  1. Learn, Test, Learn – Students often assume they can learn material just by rereading their notes or reviewing example problems. In fact, learning math is like learning a language. Students need to practice a skill, self-test with no external aids, and then check their work. Have them start with one or two problems and work their way up to practicing with problem sets of five or more.
  2. Learn by Doing – On review days, make the students the teacher. Have them present the review problems to each other or on the board. A speed dating format where students meet in 5-minute intervals keeps things interesting. Checking their peers’ work is a good way to practice identifying mistakes and following processes.
  3. Data Speaks – The midterm is useful for identifying struggling students. Try meeting with students who earn less than 70%. Pinpoint your at-risk students by running reports that show item analysis and time on topic. Check in and see what happened: poor study habits? Time management issues? Test anxiety? Discussing the data shows that you care and together you can identify the tools to improve a comeback!
  4. What does my grade really mean? – Students like to know their grade, but many struggle with calculating a weighted average. Assign a homework problem to work with weighted averages and show them how they can use an online weighted average calculator to stay up to date with their grade.
  5. Learning from Mistakes – A great learning tool is an exam reflection. Ask students to find a similar problem to one they missed on an exam, and then assign this as homework. They should explain what they did wrong on the exam and complete the similar problem. This assignment helps them identify errors in their work and gives them a chance to rework the material.


Hey Students: Check this out!
Do your students complain that math is boring and doesn’t apply to their lives? Sharing interesting math news can help spark interest, especially if it relates to a topic they are currently studying. Challenge them to find something in the news to share with the class.
Here are a few featured links to get started:
How does math apply to a corn maze? You’ll be amazed at the sophisticated mazes made of GPS and math in Massachusetts.
Cat composition is mathematical? Check meowt!
Doh?! The Math Trick Behind MP3s, JPEGs, and Home Simpson’s Face. Read on.


Just for Fun: Math After-Hours
Do you have a favorite podcast, movie, article, retail item, or recipe that would fit Math After Hours? Send them our way!
WATCH: The Secret Rules of Modern Living: Algorithms on Netflix. In this one-hour documentary, Marcus Du Sautoy reveals the hidden world of algorithms and how these 2,000 year-old problem solvers work.
SHOP: You made it to midterm! You deserve it a little retail therapy or early gift shopping for the holidays.
  • Teespring.com has some unusual T-shirt designs. A must-have MATH hoodie!
  • ThinkGeek.com has fun mathematical scarves and a Pi tie. Shop here.


James Tanton, PhD. Perseverance is Key. MAA Curriculum Inspirations, Problem Solving Strategy Essay #7.


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