MathFest 2013: Hartford

Yeah, Hartford was not that exciting, but I still had a good experience at MathFest 2013. It was a very full week, so I have lots of things to share—way too much to fit in one post. I’ll pick out one thing or another and try to write a little bit for the next few days as I process.

The first thing on my mind is my Math 1100: Math in Decision Making course for the coming fall. I had a few discussions with people about this course during the conference. In particular, David Pengelley encouraged me to make the course more tactile. This seems a good idea. I have no doubts that with some work I can realize this for my unit on topological ideas.

Also, I got to thinking that a major problem isn’t so much what my students know, but rather what they “know” that isn’t true. This is especially acute during the probability and statistics unit. I am reminded of the approach taken by Derek Mueller in his Veritasium series. He points out the importance of confronting misconceptions in order to encourage genuine learning. In fact, watch this TEDx Sydney talk he gave.

So, I want to design some sort of hands on probability & statistics unit that puts common misconceptions front and center. Now I just have to figure out what those are.

I have attempted to teach this course 3 times, and I have had classes with enrollment between 30 and 40. This is large for a “presentation based” IBL style, but I adapted some group work. I figured for this coming semester I would try out a version of Dana Ernst’s felt tip pens structure. But today, I checked my enrollment.

I will have 68 students.

I emailed my comrade Doug Shaw. We have embarked upon this experiment of teaching Math in Decision Making in parallel. (I’d say together, but we don’t talk often enough. Seriously, Doug. We should chat more.) His two sections are 72 students each.

Time for rethinking.

Robert Talbert and Matthew Jones dropped some tips over on Google+. I’m going to investigate some peer instruction ideas, some details about using classroom response technologies, and even more group work flavors of Inquiry Based Learning. I have to design something that will work.

If you have ideas, I am happy to hear them.

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2 thoughts on “MathFest 2013: Hartford

  1. I’ve also been thinking about how Derek Muller’s emphasis on directly confronting misperceptions applies in the mathematical world. Mathematicians often seem to think (as physicists do, apparently) that if they just state everything perfectly clearly, then their audience should draw only perfectly correct conclusions. (Then, in the worst situations, they mock those who ask questions that reveal an imperfect understanding. Thinking of seminars here, not classes.) Cornell’s Good Questions project made some steps towards confronting misconceptions in calculus, but more resources are needed, and more math teachers need to think about meaningful ways to deal with students’ prejudices.

    I’m teaching probability for the first time this fall (only 20 enrolled at the moment, though), so if you come up with a list of common misunderstandings, I’d appreciate your sharing them!

  2. If I discover any, I will certainly share. Right now, the only one I am sure of is that students think they understand how basic probability works. That is a major misconception.

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