Are you interested in helping your students learn mathematics more effectively? Are you thinking about branching out in the way you teach your courses? If so, you should attend this panel discussion featuring short talks from leaders in higher education in employing innovative and effective instructional strategies in their mathematics classes. After speaking, our panelists will lead breakout discussions in small groups to answer questions and share advice about effective instructional strategies for college mathematics. Panelists will include Dana Ernst (Northern Arizona University) and Theron Hitchman (University of Northern Iowa), both noted for their effective use of the flipped classroom and inquiry-based learning.
This talk was given on May 4, 2013 as part of the Michigan Project NExT Panel Discussion on at the Spring 2013 Michigan MAA Section Meeting at Lake Superior State University.
Michigan MAA Project
NExT Panel Discussion
Teaching Strategies to Improve Student Learning
Inquiry-Based Learning: What, Why, How?
Lake Superior State University
May 4, 2013
Dana C. Ernst
Northern Arizona University
Special thanks to the Academy of Inquiry-Based Learning and the
Educational Advancement Foundation for providing travel funding.
• Assistant professor at Northern Arizona University
• PhD from University of Colorado (2008)
• Special Projects Coordinator for Academy of Inquiry-
Based Learning (AIBL)
• New MAA blogger at Math Ed Matters with Angie Hodge
• Spent 4 years at Plymouth State University prior to NAU
• Number of IBL classes I had as a student: 0
• Taught first full-blown IBL class in Fall of 2009
One minute version of why IBL
• Our system needs an upgrade
• Unintended negative outcomes via traditional methods
• Research suggests IBL outcomes are better
If we really want students to be independent, inquisitive, and
persistent, then we need to provide them with the means to
acquire these stills.
The big picture
Wait, what the heck happened?!
Kids: “Why?” Adults: “I hate math”
• Montessori observation
• “So, what do you do for work?” ... “Oh, I hate math.”
What is IBL?
• According to AIBL:
‣ IBL is a teaching method that engages students in sense-
‣ Instructor provides well-crafted problems/tasks
requiring students to solve problems, conjecture,
experiment, explore, create, & communicate.
• Key ingredients: Students are responsible for
‣ guiding acquisition of knowledge, and
‣ validating ideas/arguments that are presented.
• Example: (Modified) Moore Method, after R.L. Moore.
Our main objective
How do we get here?
Continually ask yourself the following question:
Guiding Principle of IBL
Where do I draw the line
between content I must impart to
my students versus content they
can produce independently?
• About half of STEM majors
switch to non-STEM
• Top reasons for switching are
• Good ones leave, too
• Loss of interest
• Curriculum overload
• Weed-out culture
Talking About Leaving
MAA Calculus Study bears this out, as well. See
Some good news: The Colorado study
• Comparing IBL vs non-IBL university mathematics courses.
• Sandra Laursen, CU Boulder.
• Statistically significant advantages for students in IBL vs
• 5-10 “tasks” are assigned each class meeting (Daily
Homework). Due at beginning of next class.
• Students are responsible for digesting new material
outside of class (readings and screencasts).
• Nearly all class time devoted to students presenting or
discussing proposed solutions/proofs to assigned tasks.
• Students may request mini-lectures or screencasts.
My approach to IBL
• Students use felt tip pens to
annotate work in light of discussion
• Daily Homework graded on ✔
system. What did they have done
Keys to success
‣ Students have had 12+ years of direct instruction. They
probably don’t like it, but it’s what they are used to.
‣ Students need to understand student & instructor roles.
‣ Students need to know that it is ok to be stuck and that
you will support them in this endeavor.
• Adjust problems/tasks appropriately.
• Patience, trust, and community. Build on positive
• Pick a style that you are comfortable with.
• The elephant in the room: coverage!
• “That’s how I learned, and it worked for me...”
‣ But you are peculiar!
• “I like inspiring lectures.”
‣ Inspiration is necessary, but not sufficient.
• “I’m afraid the students won’t like it.”
‣ Maybe they won’t. But I bet if you are passionate,
having fun, and willing to adapt, it’ll be amazing.
‣ If I lecture, then I dictate pace.
‣ If I write something on the board, then there is a good
chance that it will be done correctly.
• Academy of Inquiry Based Learning
‣ Visiting Speakers Bureau
‣ Small Grants available for developing IBL materials
• Journal of Inquiry-Based Learning in Mathematics
‣ Refereed IBL materials
• Legacy of R.L. Moore Conference
‣ Conference devoted to IBL and the Moore Method