Teaching lessons

Computer Science Mathematics
September 13, 2016

As a new academic year begins, Mathematics Chair Lew Ludwig is helping math educators all over the country prepare for the classroom.

His new blog, Teaching Tidbits, will be featured on the Mathematical Association of America website, providing tips on pedagogical practices and how professors can implement new teaching methods in the classroom.

As senior editor, Ludwig has assembled an editorial board of five experts in the field of mathematical pedagogy. Rachel Levy of Harvey Mudd College, Dana Ernst of Northern Arizona University, Julie Phelps of Valencia College, Rejoice Mudzimri of University of Washington Bothell, and Jessica Deshler of West Virginia University will all be contributing one blog post per semester.

True to its name, these “tidbit” posts are written to be quick, simple pieces of around 300-400 words. For Ludwig, easy-access is the name of the game. His hope is that professors will be able to read new bi-weekly tips—even on the way to class—and implement them the same day. The activities and teaching tips are similarly designed to be, as Ludwig puts it, “small and low cost, with minimal start up”.

In his first two-blog posts, Ludwig writes about two practices that he implements in his own classroom: ‘Test Tuesday’ and ‘Mid-semester Course Evaluations.’ Both pieces explore obstacles that Ludwig has encountered in his 20+ years of teaching and the simple yet high impact solutions he found for his students.

An excerpt from ‘Test Tuesday’ describes the success Ludwig found after implementing a weekly exercise in class, during which students would practice answering three or four questions from an old test.

“It’s important for mathematicians to take advantage of these advances to help improve their students’ learning.”

“Even though the actual test questions are different than the ‘Test Tuesday’ questions, I noticed the average score on the first test increased by half a letter grade since enacting this exercise. Students speak highly of this activity on course evaluations as it gives them formative feedback in a supportive, low stakes environment. Moreover, recent research shows that a good way to retain information is to be tested on the material frequently.”

Pedagogy and its connections to the fields of cognitive and social psychology have always been topics of interest for Ludwig and his blog aims to present these subjects through a mathematical lens. He feels that educators have a responsibility to bring these concepts into the classroom to guide their teaching.

“With the recent advances in cognitive psychology and strides in understanding of how the brain learns, it’s important for mathematicians to take advantage of these advances to help improve their students’ learning,” says Ludwig. By using a blogging platform, he believes he will be able to share these ideas with a nationwide audience, impacting educators and students alike.

Teaching Tidbits can be found on the MAA website.

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