Faculty Learning Strategies: Math

October 15, 2015 - Audriana Stark

Our next Faculty Learning Strategies comes from UNM's very own Teaching Fellow Awardee: Derek Martinez (Deptment of Mathematics).

(Click HERE for more info on our re-occurring blog topics.)

Derek Martinez, a Senior Lecturer, in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics has been accepted into the Teaching Fellows Program by the Center for Teaching Excellence in 2015. The Teaching Fellows Program provides opportunities to discuss teaching in an informed, supportive community, to examine the latest research on teaching and learning, and to conduct research on one’s own teaching.

Derek’s project will be looking at ways to help undergraduate math students develop metacognitive abilities that will help them in their study of Mathematics. Derek has led 2 course redesign projects with STEM Gateway, Math 121 and Math 116 (now Math 153). He credits STEM Gateway for introducing him to the metacognition concept and teaching him about it. We look forward to hearing what Derek learns and teaches others in his quest to improve the study of Mathematics by triggering students’ metacognition.

Tips for student success in Math:
Dr. Martinez advises students, “DO NOT be passive!!!!” Be assertive and ask questions during class and office hours. Be sure to constantly question yourself as well. "Do I know this? How can I prove it to myself that I know this? Where specifically am I having difficulty?" He provided the following guidance for students looking for tips to succeed in math.

  1. Attend every class meeting. Learning information that you missed by not attending a class meeting can take twice or three times as much time as attending class. If you must miss a class, try to plan ahead and read the material in the book. Do the homework problems in advance, so you can ask questions of the instructor before you miss the class. If you have to miss a class for unexpected reasons, make every effort to stay current with the reading, notes and the assignments. In order to pass college algebra, it's critical that you not fall behind the rest of the class, because it can be very difficult to catch up, even if you haven't missed any actual assignments. If you miss class, also be sure to e-mail your instructor and let them know what is going on.

  2. Read the book and try to work out some examples ahead of time. Many people are surprised by this tip, because, let's admit it: most people don't read math books. In fact, these days, many people don't read textbooks at all! But some math books are quite readable and can actually increase the likelihood that you'll pass college algebra. If you read the section of the book that will be covered in class before the class meets (even if you don't fully understand what you are reading), then you will be well primed for understanding what the instructor says, because it won't be new material to you. You don't have to spend hours reading it - just enough to get a feel for the material that will be covered in class. When you read the text, have a paper and pencil with you and try and work out the examples presented in the text.

  3. Do your homework. The tests you'll take in the course will involve problems similar to the homework. In the absence of practice tests, the best practice for the tests will be the homework itself. Doing the homework will help you pass the tests, and passing the tests will help you pass college algebra. But there's an added benefit: doing homework problems will also prepare you for future concepts in the class. By completing all of the assignments in the first half of the semester, you'll have a solid foundation for the topics presented in the second half of the semester.

  4. Ask questions in class. You or someone else paid for that class. Get your money's worth by interacting with the instructor. If you have a very large class, assert yourself anyway. This step is vital in order to pass college algebra. If you have a question, there are very likely at least five other students with the same question who are afraid to ask it.

  5. Visit office hours. Your instructor will have at least three office hours a week. If you are having difficulty with any of the material do no wait until the last minute to get help. Spending 10 minutes in office hours getting a question answered can save you hours of struggling on your own!

  6. Start a study group. Two heads really are better than one. If you can explain a concept to another student, you have learned it! This is one of the most powerful ways to help you pass college algebra. While the actual interaction with your group is sure to be beneficial, groups offer the added benefit of holding members accountable for showing up at a certain time and place, ready to do math. It's easier to keep your commitment to yourself to pass college algebra if you surround yourself with others with the same commitment. The best time to organize a study group is during the first or second class meeting. Pick three classmates, for a group-size of four.

  7. Take advantage of extra help: In addition to your instructor's office hours, there is extra help available at:

    • The Algebra Tutoring Table, staffed by algebra instructors 9 - 3 every day. It is located in front of the elevators on the second floor of DSH and behind room #224. The Calculus Tutoring Table is on the third floor right above the algebra table.
    • CAPS: Center for Academic Program Support. Located on the 3rd floor of Zimmerman Library, 277-4560
    • MEP Engineering Annex, room 210, or call the study group at 277-8795
    • Paul’s Online Notes: http://tutorial.math.lamar.edu/Classes/Alg/Alg.aspx
    • CATS: Counseling and Therapy Services, Student Health Center, 277-4537. (For test anxiety, etc.)