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Math teaching strategies

WWU mathematics professors present teaching strategies to educators in the Pacific Northwest

The flipped classroom model and standards based grading better help students understand course material.

The flipped classroom model and standards based grading better help students understand course material.

Math professors at WWU, who are making excellence in thought a priority for their students, have been asked to share their tips and strategies with educators around the Pacific Northwest. These include educators in the North Pacific Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, the Oregon Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, at WWU, and at other schools around the Walla Walla Valley. Jonathan Duncan, professor of mathematics and computer science, said that “we are always looking for different strategies to improve student learning.” 

Two of these approaches are standards based grading and the flipped classroom model. Standards based grading allows students multiple attempts to reach the required standard on an assignment. The student’s final grade is then calculated by how many course objectives were mastered rather than by traditional exam points. 

In the flipped classroom model, students spend class time working homework problems in a group with the professor present to answer questions. Students prepare for class by watching assigned videos about the topic and reading the textbook. 

“While these approaches are not necessarily cutting edge, they are different from what happens in a ‘traditional’ mathematics classroom at the college level,” said Duncan. The reason for introducing these methods is because “we want students to receive the help they need when they need it instead of a one-size-fits-all lecture followed by an exam whether the students are ready or not,” he said.

Though these strategies are not a new discovery or unique to the field of mathematics, the goal is always to create student-centered learning processes. Duncan says that “educators in multiple fields are pursuing more ‘active learning’ strategies and adjusting their teaching to accommodate a new generation of students that is more diverse in academic backgrounds and learning styles.” 

Research on student reception shows that these strategies improve student performance, though students don’t necessarily like it better. 

“Many of our students express some discomfort because these classes are different from what they are used to. Those who stick with it, however, usually end up liking the new style at least as much as a traditional classroom. And we believe that they learn more in the process,” said Duncan.

During the past few months the mathematics faculty at WWU have been asked to share these strategies with schools in the Upper Columbia Conference and the Oregon Conference. 

As a result of their commitment to excellence in thought WWU mathematics professors seek to inspire students to reach their full potential. Student-centered learning processes are one facet in achieving this goal.

To learn more about strategies for effectively teaching math, contact Jonathan Duncan at jonathan.duncan@wallawalla.edu.

Posted August 12, 2019

Last update on October 1, 2018