Better Teachers Make Better Students

February 21, 2018

Success in mathematics opens opportunities for students, and Professor Lew Ludwig is on a mission to help students learn. Better teachers make better students, so Ludwig is empowering mathematics instructors with proven learner-centered teaching techniques.

New knowledge is constantly being created. In response to this, the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) updates and expands its curriculum guide for mathematics professors every ten years. This round, the MAA decided to create a teaching tool to fit alongside the new curriculum guide, the Instructional Practices Guide, and they tapped Ludwig to be a central part of the leadership team for the job.

“Making the information student-centered was a pivot in the community,” said Ludwig. “It was a bold idea — but we decided to swing for the fences.” With funding by the National Science Foundation for the project, Ludwig had the resources he needed to hit a home run.

He and the project team put together eight lead writers, each in charge of five to six contributing writers. Their goal was to find the best evidence-based practices of teaching the new curriculum to students. After almost two years of meetings and several information-wrangling sessions, the new guide was complete — to a highly appreciative audience. “In the first few weeks it was available, the guide received more than 3,000 hits,” said Ludwig.

Since he led his first class, in 1993, Ludwig has been an advocate for best teaching practices. “I am passionate about teaching and student learning,” he said. “I teach using the ‘flipped classroom,’ where students engage in new concepts before class and practice them with the teacher and peer guidance in the classroom.”

“I’m especially interested in the recent advances in cognitive psychology that give us a better understanding of how the brain learns, and social psychologists’ work on classroom dynamics and belongingness.”

Ludwig shares his best practices with other math instructors through the MAA site “Teaching Tidbits,” of which he is an editor.

“It’s hard for faculty to keep up with every advance in educational research, read books on pedagogical practices, and re-envision their classes each year,” Ludwig said. “So, when I find good information and methods that work well, I share them on Teaching Tidbits. I look for quality, evidence-based ideas with high impact and low time commitment that can be used by a wide audience. Our goal is to provide ideas that you could read on your smartphone or tablet on the way to class, then try the same day.”

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