Robert Talbert – Getting off on the right foot in an inverted calculus class (Chronicle of Higher Ed)

Here’s an excerpt from the  sixth post in from Robert Talbert’s excellent series on flipping his calculus class:

Getting off on the right foot in an inverted calculus class

In the previous post about the flipped/inverted calculus class, we looked at getting student buy-in for the flipped concept, so that when they are asked to do Guided Practice and other such assignments, they won’t rebel (much). When you hear people talk about the flipped classroom, much of the time the emphasis is on what happens before class – the videos, how to get students to do the reading, and so on. But the real magic is what happens in class when students come, prepared with some basic knowledge they’ve acquired for themselves, and put it to work with their peers on hard problems.

But before this happens, there’s an oddly complex buffer zone that students and instructors have to cross, and that’s the time when students arrive at the class meeting. Really? you are thinking. How can arrival to class be such a complicated thing? They show up, you get to work, right? Well – not so fast. There are of number of things you have to get right in this period at the beginning of class. Read more.


Robert Talbert – Getting student buy-in for the inverted calculus class (Chronicle of Higher Ed)

Here’s an excerpt from the fifth post in from Robert Talbert’s excellent series on flipping his calculus class:

Getting student buy-in for the inverted calculus class

So far, regarding the inverted/flipped calculus course, we’ve discussed why I flipped the calculus class in the first place, the role of self-regulated learning as a framework and organizing principle for the class, how to design pre-class activities that support self-regulated learning, and how to make learning objectives that get pre-class activities started on a good note. This is all “design thinking”. Now it’s time to focus on the hard part: Students, and getting them to buy into this notion of a flipped classroom.

I certainly do not have a perfect track record with getting students on board with an inverted/flipped classroom structure. In fact the first time I did it, it was a miserable flop among my students (even though they learned a lot). It took that failure to make me start thinking that getting student buy-in has to be as organized, systematic, and well-planned as the course itself.

Here are three big “don’ts” and “dos” that I’ve learned about getting students to buy in to the flipped classroom, mostly through cringe-worthy teaching performances of my own in the past, along with some examples of how we built these into the calculus course. Read more.

Moving tribute to Walter Lewin’s impact

For Walter Lewin’s recent visit to BITS Pilani University in India, the community there produced this moving video sharing the impact his OCW videos have had:

The following article on the ITS Pilani University site describes the visit:

Lecture by Prof. Walter Lewin

12 March 2014

Prof. Walter H. G. Lewin, renowned  Dutch Astrophysicist and Professor Emeritus of Physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology,  explained ‘Birth and Death of stars’ at BITS Pilani, K K Birla Goa Campus auditorium on 14th March, 2014 as a part of BITS Pilani University’s Golden Jubilee Celebrations.

Dr. Gaurav Dar, Professor and Head, Department of Physics introduced Prof. Lewin, calling him ‘one of the most famous professors in the world.’ Lewin is popular for his video lecture series on Physics and massive online courses taught on MIT OCW (Open Course Ware). In 2012, Princeton Review named him among ‘The Best 300 Professors in the US.’

A member of Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences and a fellow at American Physical Society, Prof. Walter Lewin started the lecture by explaining the birth of stars by the gravitational collapse of a gaseous nebula of material composed primarily of hydrogen and helium. He discussed the nuclear fusion of hydrogen into helium in the stars’ core, which releases massive amounts of energy. Then he enlightened the audience on the death of stars where the core becomes a stellar remnant: a white dwarf, a neutron star or a black hole depending on the star’s mass;  the Sun, being fairly light in mass, will turn into a white dwarf in around 5 billion years.

Recipient of various awards including the NASA Award for Exceptional Scientific Achievement (1978) and  NASA Group Achievement Award for the Discovery of the Bursting Pulsar (1997), Prof. Lewin is renowned for his propensity for teaching concepts of Physics using practical examples in a dynamic style. After he explained the Doppler Shift using two lucid examples  that of a tuning fork and a rotating frequency emitter, it was apparent as to why his video lecture series is a sensation on the internet. He explained, “Doppler Shift of spectral lines in binary systems played a key role in the discovery of stellar mass black holes.”

After explaining about the X-ray binaries, a class of binary stars which produce X-rays when matter falls from donor star to accretor star (a white dwarfneutron star, or black hole), Prof. Lewin concluded the lecture by commenting, “For stars, there is really life after death, provided they find the right companion and it is my wish that all of you during life-not after death-find the right companion, radiate and be happy.” He also offered to sign souvenirs for anyone interested in meeting him after the lecture. The auditorium was packed to capacity by students from various colleges of Goa.

Check out professor Lewin’s videos for yourself:

Why math is like street fighting (Toronto Star)

Here’s another great article on the book behind the new MITx course 6.SFMx Street Fighting Math:

Why math is like street fighting

An M.I.T. professor wants students to begin using educated guesses to come up with solutions to math problems in the real world.

By: Debra Black Staff Reporter, Published on Tue Mar 30 2010

Street fighting and math hardly seem like they would fit together.But for Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Sanjoy Mahajan, street fighting is a perfect analogy to encourage his students to use educated guesswork to solve math problems in the real world.

“In street fighting, the beautiful form of a kick doesn’t matter,” Mahajan said in a phone interview with the Star. “What really helps you is if you connect and get results you need and survive. You can think of problem-solving as being in a duel with nature. You want to get to the end. The beauty and the elegance of it doesn’t matter.”

In his course, the “Art of Approximation in Science and Engineering,” Mahajan

associate director for teaching initiatives at MIT’s Teaching and Learning Laboratory, wants his students to use a variety of principles or ways of reasoning – everything from analogical to pictorial – to come up with solutions.

Mahajan believes essentially the students have to lower their standards – a hard thing for any educator to utter and even harder thing for perfection-wired students to embrace.

“They have been trained that science and engineering is all about rigor and exactness. And yes, it is at the end. But at first you need a rough idea of where you are. You need to lower your standards and get something on paper.”

Mahajan believes that if students focus on rigorous exact formulas of mathematics, they’ll never come up with solutions. “Life comes at you with roughly stated problems,” he said. And “you need rough answers.” Read more.

Robert Talbert – Creating learning objectives, flipped classroom style (Chronicle of Higher Ed)

Here’s an excerpt from the fourth post in from Robert Talbert’s excellent series on flipping his calculus class:

Creating learning objectives, flipped classroom style

In my last post about the inverted/flipped calculus class, I stressed the importance of Guided Practice as a way of structuring students’ pre-class activities and as a means of teaching self-regulated learning behaviors. I mentioned there was one important difference between the way I described Guided Practice and the way I’ve described it before, and it focuses on the learning objectives.

A clear set of learning objectives is at the heart of any successful learning experience, and it’s an essential ingredient for self-regulated learning since self-regulating learners have a clear set of criteria against which to judge their learning progress. And yet, many instructors – myself included in the early years of my career – never map out learning objectives either for themselves or for their students. Or, they do, and they’re so mushy that they can’t be measured – like any so-called objective beginning with the words “understand” or “appreciate”. Read more.

Interview with HarvardX Researcher Justin Reich (Degrees of Freedom)

Here’s a great podcast interview from earlier in the year with Justin Reich, the Richard L. Menschel HarvardX Research Fellow at Harvard. A great view into our developing understanding of scalable learning.

Justin Reich

Justin Reich

Today’s podcast guest is Justin Reich, Richard L. Menschel HarvardX Research Fellow, a Fellow at the Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, and a visiting lecturer in the Scheller Teacher Education Program at MIT.

Justin was that guy some of you saw on stage when Harvard released its research findings back in January.  And on today’s show, he will talk about what those results might tell us about what students are doing in a MOOC after they hit the Enroll button.

Rough calculations (MIT News)

Here’s an MIT News article from a while back about the book by Sanjoy Mahajan on which the new MITx course 6.SFMx Street Fighting Math is based:

Rough calculations

Sanjoy Mahajan’s new book, Street-Fighting Mathematics, lays out practical tools for educated guessing and down-and-dirty problem-solving

Peter Dizikes, MIT News Office

March 28, 2010

Time for some quick arithmetic: Is 3600 x 4.4 x 104 x 32 larger or smaller than 3 x 109?

Finding the right answer, says Sanjoy Mahajan, associate director for teaching initiatives at MIT’s Teaching and Learning Laboratory, does not require crafting a long, tedious calculation. Instead, the key to solving this problem — and many others — lies in having informal tools on hand that let us attack the problem. Though the result may not be perfectly precise, he believes, intuitive mathematical reasoning is often sufficient for our needs.

“That’s not to say exact answers aren’t useful,” says Mahajan, “but if looking for them is your only approach, you may never get any answer at all. Sometimes it’s better to start with something rough.”

So while conventional math teaching is often a highly formal affair, with an emphasis on definitions, theorems, and proofs, Mahajan believes we should learn practical math tools and understand why they work. He outlines this philosophy — and explains those tools — in a new book, Street-Fighting Mathematics: The Art of Educated Guessing and Opportunistic Problem-Solving, being published this month by MIT Press.  Read more.