The Second Year of “On Teaching and Learning Mathematics”

By Art Duval, Contributing Editor, University of Texas at El Paso

Another year has flown by, and so it is once again a good time to collect and reflect on all the articles we have been able to share with you since our last annual review.  I enjoyed the chance to re-read all the articles, and I was also surprised at the interesting variety of themes that emerged when I sorted them out.  It was not easy to put each article in a unique box, and I will point out the blurring between categories.  I hope you enjoy the chance to revisit these articles, and perhaps find new meaning from the juxtapositions here.

Active learning.  We devoted two months in the fall to our six-part series on active learning.  Taking the article on this subject by Freeman et al. that had recently appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences as jumping off point, we explored different aspects of active learning.  It was exhausting and exhilarating for us to work together as an editorial board to write those articles, starting each new one before all the previous ones were done, and finding new things to say in reaction to ideas that emerged from earlier articles.

Teaching practices.  It should be no surprise that, once again, the bulk of our articles land in this category.  Each one discusses something someone has done in their classroom and/or that you can do in yours.  But there were some interesting sub-themes that showed up.

The affective domain.  I was struck by the different articles that explored aspects of the affective domain.  Benjamin Braun (our Editor-in-Chief) wrote two articles directly about this, but Taylor Martin and Ken Smith’s article about classroom culture is also largely about what we can do as teachers to structure our classes to help students develop in this direction.  Of course, Martin and Smith’s article also goes nicely with the Class frameworks articles above.

Student voices.  Once again, we featured several articles written by students giving their different perspectives.  A.K. Whitney wrote about beginning math courses, Sabrina Schmidt about her undergraduate math major overall, and Steve Balady about the program he started as a graduate student.

K-12.  Although our main focus is on undergraduate mathematics teaching and learning, it is neither possible nor wise to put a rigid barrier between K-12 and post-secondary.  All of these articles find some connection or another between these two levels, whether through curriculum, outreach, or teacher preparation.

Policy, etc. These are articles that are more broad than a single classroom, and report on, or advocate for, changes that can be made to curriculum and beyond.  The latter two articles include actions that ordinary mathematicians and mathematics instructors can take, mostly aimed at the K-12 level.

And one more thing.  Not fitting into any one other category was the article collecting the varied personal reflections about this year’s Joint Math Meetings by each of the members of the editorial board.

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One Response to The Second Year of “On Teaching and Learning Mathematics”

  1. Jacob Koczwara says:

    I like how you kept track of what happened while you were teaching. I think one of the things teachers fail to do in general is keep track of how what they are teaching, how they are reaching the students and interacting with them. I think it critical for any teacher who is just starting to keep a journal of what they think is going well, what they think didn’t work as well, and how they think they can improve. It’s crucial for teachers to do so just for their own improvement so that they can become better teachers. I think that when I become a math teacher I’m going to keep an audio journal on my phone. I plan on each morning when I drive into work talking about what I’m going to do, what my plans are for class today, and how I hope I can reach and interact with my students and in the evening when I drive home from work I’m going to make an audio log about how my plans went, what my plans are for tomorrow, and what I’m thinking about doing tomorrow. After each month I’m going to listen to the audio logs on the weekends and see how I’ve improved and what I still need to work on. I think this is important so I don’t get lost in the teaching process and so I can continually improve and become the best teacher I possibly can be.

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