Things are looking different for Math 106 and 107 (Calculus I and II) students this semester. Based on the positive feedback from the Brace Labs renovations, the Math Department transformed five rooms in Louise Pound Hall (formerly CBA) into active learning classrooms to allow for more student collaboration.
Classrooms that used to look like rows of desks facing one instructor now feature projectors, document cameras, whiteboards on every wall, and oval tables for groups of six students, which encourage discussion.
Professor and Vice Chair Allan Donsig submitted a proposal for the new classrooms when CBA was being renovated last year.
The renovations are “part of a larger effort to change the way we teach Calc recitations,” Donsig said. Other changes include putting together course packets, extending class time, preparing lessons for instructors, and setting up weekly recitation leader meetings.
“Classrooms are the icing on the cake that make these changes possible,” Donsig said.
Lecturer Janet Emery, who has taught a range of introductory courses for more than 15 years, said she uses the interactive features of the new boards in the classrooms as much as she can, which helps her students pay more attention.
Undergraduate math and secondary math education major Elizabeth Tyler (see Page 17) has been teaching recitations for five semesters and has seen a dramatic increase in attendance, which she credits to these renovations. Last year, she taught in a traditional classroom, which she said hindered the students from working in groups and sharing their work in front of the entire class.
Tyler said the new six-person tables prompt students to collaborate and learn from one another, and having whiteboards on every wall makes it easier for them to show their work as they go.
“My students this semester are significantly more involved in the work and eager to work with each other on the material,” Tyler said. “It is easier for students who are struggling a little bit to get involved in this setting.”
There are about 1,500 students in Math 106 and 107 each fall and 1,000 each spring, and almost all of them are now using the active learning classrooms.
The university funded the classroom renovations and furniture. “We appreciate the resources committed by the university to active learning,” Donsig said. “Dedicated classrooms are a major commitment.” Success in mathematics is highly correlated with retention and graduation rates, he added.
“Very few people today make a great living sitting in a room by themselves,” Donsig said. “Group work, interacting and explaining material with peers is crucial and builds skills for students, whatever their careers may be.”
- Alli Davis and Lindsay Augustyn