This section is designed to help you nurture a student project from its inception as simply an idea to documents and resources that you can use in your class. This process can have many starting points. In some cases, a project may start out as a learning objective for students. Based on that objective, the project is built by finding appropriate data and then designing a letter to the students and supporting resources. Another option is to steal an idea from a colleague in your department or at a conference. The idea can be molded to suit your learning objectives with supporting resources to guide your students toward successful completion. Most often, my projects start out as interesting data that I have find on websites. Once I find data with a lot of potential, I try to use it in several classes. In this manner, students that take several classes from me (like College Algebra, Finite Math and Survey of Calculus) have a chance to work with data they are familiar with and understand.
Any of these strategies for creating a project needs to have some common elements to be successful:
- Learning objectives for the project;
- Good robust data or functions;
- An interesting question for the students to answer;
- A solution strategy that requires several steps to accomplish;
- Resources to help the students learn the technology skills they will need to solve the problem;
- Resources to help the students learn the mathematics they will need to solve the problem;
- An assessment strategy to evaluate whether the students have met the learning objectives;
In this section, I’ll trace the development of a project I use in Survey of Calculus. This is a course that is taken by business and finance majors during their first two years in college. I teach at a community college and often have high school students from local charter schools enrolled in the class. I designed the project so that it could also be used in four year colleges and universities.
Assessment of the learning objectives are accomplished through a written document I call a technical memo. In this document, students introduce the problem they are solving, explain what their solution strategy is, show their solution, and comment on the validity of their strategy. Since I teach Survey of Calculus in a traditional brick and mortar classroom and online, this document replaces exams in my classes. To ensure students are doing their own work, the projects are specifically designed to engage the students over several weeks. I require check ups regular during these weeks to help guide them and to insure that they are doing their own work. Since students submit several assignments prior to turning in their final technical memo, they are invested in the project and student integrity issues are minimized. The student integrity issues that do arise are easy to detect.