Featuring the innovative work of our outstanding faculty users is something we love to do here at WebAssign. This week we are spotlighting Dr. Anne Triplett. Anne is taking a sabbatical from teaching this year and will be writing a collection of sports-themed questions for WebAssign! We are very excited to have her working with us and recently spoke with her about her education background and teaching philosophy.
In 1997 I graduated from The University of Oregon with a PhD in pure Math. I then taught at the University of Maine at Farmington for three years before coming to the University of Mount Union. I was fortunate to be able to do some teaching while I was a student, so I knew that was the path I wanted to take.
What is your teaching philosophy?
Make it real! If I am teaching probability, I start with expected value and do some actual games in class. This shows the students that counting arguments are useful. When doing weighted averages, I use quarterback ratings from football as an example. Sometimes I will start a mathematical topic with an example that is somewhat unexpected, so the students can become familiar with an application before they actually understand the mathematics. I try to teach concepts by relating them to real-life situations, when possible. I believe that all students are capable of learning, but that learning takes place more effectively when students have understood contexts and applications.
What teaching practices do you employ to get your students engaged in learning?
I try to use as many examples as I can from different disciplines. In a precalculus class, I may use examples from sociology or psychology. I always try use examples from sports and music. I hope never to give the students the feeling that my class is being taught in isolation from other disciplines. Math relates to every discipline on a college campus.
I also provide rapid feedback to students through frequent quizzes, tests, and other assessments. In class, I ask students questions and expect the participation of all students, whenever possible. I frequently ask students to work out problems on classroom whiteboards, and I assign graded WebAssign homework every day. I have many office hours for students, and I make certain that my students are aware of campus tutoring that is available to them.
What are your best practice suggestions for using WebAssign?
I like to use different forms of assessment. Some quizzes are in class and some are timed assignments on WebAssign. My assignments are due at midnight the day before every class. In this way, it is not likely that students will try to stay up until 4:00 a.m. the night before the assignment is due. I assign problems from different sources. The result is that the student will see different ways to ask for the same information. For example – find y’, find dy/dx, find the rate of change of y w.r.t. to x, find the slope of the curve, etc.
One thing that I always thought was odd when I was a student, is that teachers would tell us to get a head start on studying and not wait until the last minute, but they would only conduct reviews in the last class before the exam. This makes it likely that students will wait until the last minute to begin preparing for the exam. If I give an exam on a Friday, then I assign a review on WebAssign the Friday before the exam, and I make it due on the Thursday before the exam at noon.
I make sure that “Practice Another Version” is enabled after the due date, so that they can work out the tough problems again. I believe that this helps to prevent a lot of procrastination. I send a gentle reminder to start the review early. Having the students see the review early shows them what material they are responsible for in enough time for them to get help if they are behind.
What role does technology play in your teaching?
I use the usual things like Excel, PowerPoint and Mathematica. But, I also have the students Google different topics and see what they find. For example, I might ask: “How many YouTube videos are there on integration by parts? Watch two of them and tell me what you think.”
What do you plan to achieve during your sabbatical?
I will be writing questions with a sports theme that require different math skills. Although many books have been written on the connections between mathematics and sports, I have not found one that provides many useful examples for students who do not have a strong interest in mathematics. Creating a collection of sports-related questions that teach basic skills and are both interesting and useful is at the heart of my sabbatical project.
The questions that are typically available for statistics classes are basic and uninspiring, dealing mainly with mean, median, and mode. Writing my own types of interest-based questions would help to provide students with more relevant content and more interesting delivery of the material. I have also found that most of the sports-related questions are focused on baseball, basketball and football. However, there is some very interesting mathematics in sports like cricket and bowling. So, on my sabbatical, I will need to learn about some sports that I am not currently familiar with.
We want to hear from you! Do you use similar teaching methods to engage your students. Will this collection of sports-themed questions help your students learn? Respond in the comments section below.