Linear Algebra ReWriting Plan for Summer 2014


I have just concluded the spring 2014 semester, and the linear algebra course that was part of it. I learned a lot from this run-through, and I have started making some plans for big changes. In the fall, I will have two sections of the course, so I can reasonably devote some serious energy to getting things ready.

On one hand, I am motivated by my failures. My friend Philip East put it this way, while describing his emotional state with two weeks left in the term: “Well, I am done with this semester. Let’s get ready for the next.” That is how I usually feel, too. By week 13 of the term, all of the mistakes I am going to make have been made, and I start to feel antsy about planning the next (better) iteration.

On the other hand, some really good things happened in this course, and I want to build on those small successes. I do think they were small, but they are what I have.

In the interest of sticking to a more professional approach, I will try to structure my process for reworking things. What I have planned is a series of posts where I write-to-think about the issues that need my attention. This might take a while.

These are the issues as I see them now:

  1. Incorporation of Computer Algebra System: My department has decided upon a student learning goal which involves some basic facility with a computer algebra system. We have also decided that linear algebra is the place this should happen.
  2. Course Content Choices: Introductory linear algebra is a big subject. What parts of this belong in my course?
  3. Mathematical Process Goals: I need to revisit my “meta-content” ideas. What bits of how one learns and does mathematics will be front and center?
  4. Daily Structure: How shall the students and I spend our time? What will they do between meetings? What will we do during meetings?
  5. Assignments & Accountability: What design features do my assignments need to scaffold the experience for the students? How will I track student work to keep everyone going at a reasonable pace?
  6. Teaching Communication Skills: How will we address the skills of writing and speaking about mathematics?
  7. Content Delivery: How will I put my materials together and make them available? What would be an effective way to write things to serve my other goals?
  8. Summative Assessment Structure: At some point, I have to give grades…
I have a bunch of ideas about most of these things, but I am a long way from done. As I write these posts, I will have to go back and read what I have written about the course before, and also revisit a few items from my rss feeds that have influenced me in one way or another.
Hang on, planning in progress.