Baseball and Not Baseball

What I Learned This Week

Category Archives: What I Learned

2018 Prepping Considerations


Use low floor-high ceiling problems to introduce most lessons

Mindset: Weekly sepnd 5-10 minutes on encouraging a growth mindset. In particular use the opening day activity from MichMATYC (How did you get good at it?)

Theme: Each week summarize how what we have done fits in the major course themes

Mixed practice: Add practice from former lessons to the homework for some interleaving.

Remember that Geogebra, spreadsheets, and Desmos exist and can sometimes make good visiualizations

Consider using Plickers for informal assessment when it makes sense to use Plickers for informal assessment.

Look back at this when designing lessons.

More on AMATYC


I notice I have been off-theme and not writing “not baseball” on each of these.

Here is a quick summary of the rest of AMATYC:

I went to two OER sessions. Both showed no decrease in student success when they switched to OER, so students can save money and not have increased risk of failure. One group talked about how they had to overcome some faculty resistance (which really seemed to be inertia.) They offered a stipend to make the change. It seems to me this is just your regular curricular work, but more power to them if they can get a stipend to do what they are supposed to be doing anyway. They reminded me that I can use Geogebra and Desmos for demonstration software. I have gotten away from that a little bit lately.

I went to a session on apps in math for Liberal Arts, but found it a little slow and the presenter did not seem to know his audience, so I left it and went to a session on BASEBALL. The presenter had some interesting applicable calculations that could be done by students at almost any level. Unfortunately he also offered a total offense statistic that he said improved OPS because the denominators are different in OBP and SLG. What he missed is that when you add as rational expression SLG and OBP you get 1/PA*(Good Linear Weights Formula) + small error. This will correlate with total offense much better than the cleaner version he has because his linear weights do not correlate as well with actual offensive performance. His over-weights extra-base hits.

I went to one session on the new professional development document. In one sentence, it seems they have added mindfulness (Dweck’s work) and utility value to the standards. If I were to have a second sentence I would warn that it is a little stilted. They use the acronym IMPACT (Improving Mathematical Prowess and College Math Teaching) whenever the word impact is used in the text, for instance. PrOwESS is also an acronym (Proficiency, Ownership, Engagement, Student Success). The acronyms themselves seem pretty useful as I recalled these without looking back. I do hope they remove the stilted writing.

A session on training folks to teach QR courses was interesting, but really focused a lot on the Carnegie curriculum they were using.

New Examples of Linear Equations for class had a hand out that made it look like it could have been new in 1975 so I went to Projects in Liberal Arts Math. I have a couple ideas from hearing other attendees describe their projects.

I’ll write one more post with my goals for 2018 soon.

Reflections on OER

An Oregon (PCC) school adopted OER in Math. I have detailed handwritten notes (see me if interested). Their most important advice is to understand colleagues concerns. 

Some things- look me campus-wide team building we are already doing. 

Other things- generating buy in- we do not have to do as Michael Nealon and TB have bought in already. 

They also say their notes will be in the proceedings. They are not there as of 11-10-2017. 

OER at Baltimore City Community College

Scott Saunders reported on the experience of Baltimore City Community College. They phased in OER through developmental courses starting at the lowest level. Students saved (a little less than) 90% of the cost and success rates were not significantly changed. They still used software.

Based on costs and their claim to have had one software product through the whole chain of courses I think they were Pe4rson based. (The 4 is in case Pe4rson trolls the web looking for their name.)

Their numbers are small, but the results are encouraging.

This is Session 064 in the conference proceedings.

This became a round table after 20 minutes or so. That was interesting,

Promoting Persistence and Placement Round Table

During one session Friday afternoon I went to a student persistence session. It sort of was just obvious things we should all do (learn names quickly, encourage small positive changes, …) My handwritten notes are in my notebook, but I do not think we have many novice teachers right now who would benefit from this. I left after 20 minutes

I went to the placement round table. Lots of changes are taking place. Much discussion centered on using ALEKS, and whether self-reported high school GPA is an appropriate instrument. Some other discussion centered on how long any placement measure should be considered valid. There was brief discussion about non-cognitive tests. SB was at the entire session so he may have more to add if any of you at HFC are interested.

AMATYC: Removing Barriers to Success in Front Door Mathematics Courses

Valencia College is creating interventions for students using Dweck’s work on growth mindset and utility value (learning has a value for me).

Growth Mindset:Students write essays to persuade other students after reading an article on growth mindset and answering some open ended reflections.

Utility Value: Students write paragraphs several times about the math they are learning and how they- or someone else could use it. The goal is eventually to have students give specific math and specific applications eventually. (They are sorted binarily based on specific, or not in each category.)

Growth Mindset

They measure how students, in their essays, describe things like help-seeking, malleability, . . . Students fit into three groups:

Low group: They did not put much effort in (GPA 2.02)

Growth only: Trying hard increases performance (GPA 2.04)

Growth and strategy: They also talked about help-seeking and processes for getting better at math (GPA 2.38) NOTE: DID NOT CONTROL FOR WRITING ABILITY- DID CONTROL WITH RANDOMIZATION FOR OTHER FACTORS. The presenter brought this up withou me asking which makes me take this much more seriously.

Control GPA: 2.11 (all courses)


Baseline Men 59%, Women 68%

After intervention Men 72%, Women 64% (Not significant for women)

Utility helps most at-risk it seems.

More data is coming!


MichMATYC 2017

I spent much of my time in inquiry based learning sessions again. These were run by Chrissi Von Renesse, Kyle Petereson, and Brian Katz. They ran the sessions using IBF techniques which is what I always like about IBF sections. They do not lecture about IBF.

Despite the fact that this is an overall philosophy I want to list some things I will add to my teaching in the winter based on this session. Sometime later this semester I will merge this with the Small Teaching and AMATYC ideas and make a set of goals for the next year.

  1. Welcoming Activity: Have students introduce each other. Give a trivial distracting questions (favorite food, favorite color), have students tell something they are good at. Have students tell how they got good at it. Write the answers to the “How” questions on the board. Make obvious connections to working to learn math.
  2. There is a PRIMUS (magazine that two of the session-runners edit) special on Quantitative Reasoning. I should try to find that.
  3. I think I remember this from last year- make my introductory problems have a high ceiling and low floor so that I can give time for some groups to finish without boring other groups. I think the QR course I am teaching in the winter is the perfect place to try this.
  4. I may add relevant puzzle problems from time to time for fun. (This was actually from a lecture).

Some of us got to do a teaching demo and receive feedback from out peers. This was valuable. My biggest praise was allowing sufficiently long pauses after questions for people to think (and not answering the questions myself.) One critique was that although I did sit with groups to discuss their math, I also sometimes loomed over peoples’ shoulders which can be disconcerting. I will try to watch for that.

The three IPA’s at Unruly Brewery I tried were all good, but none are spectacular. I can’t find the name of the one I liked best on their website, but it was the one the bartender recommended. The attached pizza place was also good (Rebel Pies), but the $22 pies might keep me away. (Well, that and the three hour drive). I would visit as a local to try some of their other varieties of beer from time to time.

Small Teaching Chapter 7

Chapter 7 is about using emotions to motivate. You can use a story, or an interesting problem at the start of class to engage the class. You can periodically remind students of the big picture. I do both of these, but could remind myself to do these things more often.

The author also mentions that negative emotions may work better, but may cause other problems. I think he missed an opportunity for a Star Wars metaphor.

Small Teaching Chapters 5 and 6

Chapter 5 is about practice. Students should practice in the same way they will perform. Students should also practice to commit certain basic facts to memory, so that their working memories are not overwhelmed when doing more advanced practice. Students should also be mindful, or they may repeat errors instead of learning something new. Teachers should provide feedback on the practice as soon as possible and should do some practice in the classroom. Chapter 5 did not teach me much. I guess it reminded me to do more quiz-like activities to close class and it reminded me I should give some short writing prompts with instant, rather than delayed feedback.

Chapter 6 is about self-explaining. It opens with a result that I thought might just show correlation. Students who explained a task to themselves as they did it learned it better. Of course if you understood it better you are also more likely to be able to self-explain. There was a useful idea for math class, however. You can ask students to tell why they chose the process, or step that they chose. Then they will focus on the theorem, or big-picture idea in the class as they do any problem. I might add some of these questions to my worksheets in the winter.

Chapter 6 also said that backward fading, which I would call scaffolding, does seem to work in math. So, starting with steps defined and removing the reminders on later problems may help. I often already do this.

Finally, think-pair-share activities with Plickers (or other clickers) is useful. I do this from time to time and might want to start doing it more.

Small Teaching: Chapter 4 – Connecting

You can help students make connections in the material they are learning with knowledge dumps- to remind students what they know, and let you know what they know, frameworks- such as partially completed notes where students can complete the details, but the big ideas are already there, and concept maps.

I sometimes use the knowledge dump when introducing slope. Many students remember pieces of that topic. Our current Math 081 book is a work text so it essentially has a notes template. I think it sometimes does not connect the big ideas so I try to do that on review days. I also mention how topics interleave as topics like proportion are revisited 3 to 4 times during the semester. I have done concept maps as parts of reviews as well.

For me the most useful part of the chapter was a reminder to at least periodically show how all the big ideas in the course are tied together.