|Sep22-08, 01:13 PM||#1|
Blog Entries: 5
Resources for Math Teachers
|Sep23-10, 02:39 PM||#2|
The only person I know of who has really learned how to make a difference in student calculus learning in college is Uri Treisman. He successfully focused on turning around the low success rate of some minority students at Berekeley, and has produced probably more minority math PhD's than anyone else in America.
My take on his discovery is basically this: His unsuccessful minority students came from poor schools where they had nonetheless learned to succeed. It is hard to go from a poor school to a good school. The problem is you are not used to taking advantage of what the school offers, since the poor high school did not offer much. Being bright and motivated and well prepared do not count for enough when you go from a weak high school to a very high level elite college. You also have to be willing to work together with your peers and to take advantage of the extra learning opportunities these top schools offer. I.e. students coming from poor high schools do not have the right study behavior to succeed in good colleges. They are used to isolating themselves from other (they assume) poor students, and working alone. They also ignore available tutorials, assuming those are for "weak" students. So you have to learn how to behave at a school where most students are good students. Indeed I thought this theory could help explain why I myself, as an honors math student from a small school in the south, with high SAT scores but little real education, failed out of Harvard in 1961. I felt like an outsider there and thought I could do it all myself. Finally I quit trying and slid down the greasy pole. When I returned I finally learned to survive by studying at first with another classmate, and practicing old finals that were available in the library.
Last year I made the conjecture that since my state has notoriously weak high schools, most of my students are probably also unprepared for the study behavior required in the flagship state university. I also noted that they are often too shy to come to office hours. Hence I created problem sessions, instead of office hours, and I held them in a classroom instead of my scary office. I also scheduled them carefully every day at different times, so that every student could attend at least one a week. I circulated the email list to the class so they could get in touch with each other for help. Then following Treisman's model we also worked some of the more difficult problems in the problem sessions, not just the easy ones. The sessions did seem to help. Of course they also took up twice as much of my time as usual!
Here is a link to Treisman's speech on his experience and his discoveries:
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