Today I presented several projects at the AMATYC Conference in New Orleans. I wanted to post some of the details of those projects for the attendees (as well as others) to utilize.
I use the College Costs Project in College Algebra. The version I presented in New Orleans is the first of four projects that I use in the class. This project requires teams of students to model college costs as a function of time using linear functions. Later in the semester, the students model the same data with quadratic, exponential, and logarithm functions.
In an earlier post, I mentioned a blog post by Sara Briggs on creativity killers. This post spurred me to examine my own teaching strategies in a different light. Instead of simply determining whether my students know their stuff or not, I wanted to know whether the students leaving my class are prepared to be successful in a mathematical sense. Can they use mathematics in a creative way?
In examining my own teaching strategies, I began to realize that I might be stifling the creativity of my students. Many of you may think ofme as a project based learning type of guy who values the process of finding a solution to a problem. But I am also an online learning kind of guy who utilizes MyLabs by Pearson. This platform allows me to easily assess my students with a variety of question types. These questions emphasize a correct answer and not the process by which those answers are obtained. It is this “right answer” type of learningthat forced me to confront the creativity question. Do questions like these help my students solve mathematical problems creatively?
At the end of each semester, I like to think about how the semester went. What did I do a good job with? How was my stress level during the semester? Did any project just bomb?
Immediately, a couple students who really got it come to mind. For a day or so, I can frolic in the feeling left by their success. Inevitably, it the students who did not do so well that stick with me. Or the assignment that seemed so intuitive that few students were able to complete it successfully.
As community college faculty, we often think that we are employed to teach our students. Or inspire our students. Or encourage our students. Or all of the above. It is a little surprising when you learn that you may be potentially killing students future. Now I dont mean that you or I might be sucking the life out of them. Instead, we may be extinguishing a key part of their future success, their creativity.
Can you imagine the horror on the faces of my students when I tell them that they will work with other students in my class? What is even worse, they will be graded on this work? And it is a large portion of their overall grade in the class! The horror!
On the surface you might think of a math class as a course ripe for teaching by lecture format. There are a lot of concepts to get through and many examples to see worked out. Without my brilliant lectures, how on earth are they to succeed in such a demanding course?