Announcement: Active Learning Article in AMS Notices

By Benjamin Braun, Editor-in-Chief

Some of our readers might be interested to know that the February 2017 Notices of the American Mathematical Society contains an article on active learning that is based on the six-part series on active learning published on this blog in Fall 2015.  See the Notices article here:

What Does Active Learning Mean for Mathematicians?” Benjamin Braun, Priscilla Bremser, Art M. Duval, Elise Lockwood, Diana White. Notices of the American Mathematical Society, Vol 64, Number 2, February 2017.

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1 Response to Announcement: Active Learning Article in AMS Notices

  1. Brian Winkel says:

    We read and very much appreciated the confirming piece, “What Does
    Active Learning Mean for Mathematicians?” in the current issue of the
    Notices of the AMS. Congratulations on a work well done.

    While much of what the authors bring forward is “not new news,” the forum in
    which you offered it truly is NEW, namely the Notices of the AMS. The
    organization and presentation were very engaging, with rich
    illustrations to which readers could relate. As a former Editor (I
    founded the journal PRIMUS years ago) I appreciated the elegance in
    your writing and your narrative approach.

    As a long standing member of AMS – over 50 years and as well with MAA –
    I am so pleased to see the Society turning more and more of its
    publication pages to teaching (while still maintaining its strong and
    supportive efforts on research) the very mathematics which is the core
    of the research effort in mathematics. Indeed, a few weeks ago at the
    Joint Mathematics Meeting in Atlanta we offered an AMS Special Session
    on The Modeling First Approach to Teaching Differential Equations.
    This was one of the first such sessions the AMS offered which was
    solely devoted to teaching. We suffered the lack of attendance due to
    the weather “panic” that caused folks to leave Atlanta early, but we had
    reasonable attendance and some remarkable talks.

    I particularly appreciated the article’s words, “. . . lecturing in order to
    cover more material is not always effective for students. By exclusively
    considering course content coverage and responding to content coverage
    with telling, we risk forgetting the many other elements of student
    learning that active learning addresses, such as the cognitive goals for
    students outlined in the 2015 MAA CUPM Curriculum Guide.” The fear (in
    some case excuse) that faculty have for not using active learning that
    coverage will be lost is simply not supported.

    I have been in the active learning camp for years, indeed, once engaged
    in active learning there is a sort of guilt feeling that happens if one
    has to “drop back and punt” by going to lecture. Nevertheless, there are
    times when we need to just tell them so min-lectures are not plain bad.
    Years ago Kurt Bryan, a colleague at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
    in Terre Haute IN co-taught a differential equations course and we
    taught in very active mode, with in class modeling projects. On course
    end evaluations the students said essentially, “We really liked when you
    were ‘on’ and produced quality activities for us, but we did not like
    when you were not ‘on’ and lectured.” They can tell the difference and
    they know when they are engaging and learning. Hopefully, colleagues who
    read your piece and who try to engage in more active learning get good
    student feedback. However, Karl Smith of Purdue University’s Engineering
    Education program, told me years ago that it can take as much as 5 years
    to be proficient in active learning techniques, but he also said once
    there you will not go back to lecturing. So true!

    Now while I have your attention I want to share something we are working
    on now which is an ultimate active learning effort, namely, teaching
    differential equations using a modeling-first approach. We call it
    SIMIODE – Systemic Initiative for Modeling Investigations and
    Opportunities with Differential Equations. SIMIODE is about teaching
    differential equations using modeling and technology upfront and
    throughout the learning process. You can learn more at our dynamic
    website,, where we offer a community in which colleagues
    can communicate, collaborate, publish, teach, explore, contribute, etc.
    Check us out.

    Finally and again, we should all thank and applaud the AUTHORS and THE Editors of the Notices of the AMS for this terrific piece.

    PS I was particularly impressed with the Middlebury images as my wife is
    a Midd grad!!!

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