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IMPACT In Action: Equity As the Term Begins Discussion

By Anders Jasson AJ Stachelek posted 07-14-2020 09:48:50


Our last discussion focused on planning for equity before the term starts. Once the term begins, the first weeks of the class are a crucial time for us to build students’ sense of belonging and their belief that we will support them in their learning of mathematics. Indeed, IMPACT’s Ownership pillar reminds us to be mindful of how our biases and prejudices may affect student learning. Further, IMPACT's Proficiency reminds us that the learning environment must promote principles of inclusion, access, and equity. To be sure, we need to be sensitive to the impact of mathematics anxiety to student success while we ensure we maintain high expectations for students and clearly communicate these expectations throughout the term. 

What strategies do you use as the term begins to achieve the three goals of building a student’s sense of belonging, conveying your expectations, and providing adequate support? 



07-19-2020 22:03:04

In order to provide adequate support, I've begun creating mini-lectures that I post within each organized unit of my online course. These mini-lectures are one of three options: 1) responses to students' questions, 2) common mistakes that I know have happened frequently in prior semesters of this course, or 3) powerful mathematical ideas that unlock future ideas.

For instance, one mini-lecture I recorded was about the important idea that any value divided by itself is 1 (except of course 0). This simple idea unlocks solving equations, simplifying rational expressions, and rationalizing denominators to name a few key skills in college algebra. Also, revisiting order of operations to explain that multiplication and division are the same and addition and subtraction are the same, but just in disguise would be both a common error (multiplication does not precede division) and a powerful mathematical idea (using the reciprocal for division to multiply for rational expressions).

Lastly, the shortness of the videos is my way of implementing advice I heard in an Equity Committee meeting in regards to thinking about the length of prerecorded videos. Since students have great variation in internet speed, computer capabilities, and overall access to technology, all of these videos are 10 minutes or less and this one shift alone has improved my teaching to be more focused on the big ideas.

07-18-2020 14:27:29

A colleague is a big proponent of using games as icebreakers and as learning tools.  I adopted the icebreakers- have students either line themselves up or group together with respect to some characteristic (alphabetical by first name and borough where they live are the first two I use).  It was striking how much students enjoyed it, and it changed the energy in the classroom.  

For my online summer class, I am using discussion board activities in place of the icebreaker games.  For the first post, I ask students to describe something they are good at and then comment on another student's post.  Students shared interesting things about themselves, encouraged other students in their learning process, and exchanged information to form study groups.  I plan to point out how their posts describe a lot of work to gain their expertise, and despite having some frustrations in the beginning, they all expressed enjoyment at gaining proficiency.  There's a nice growth mindset lesson here, but I am happy with the results right now.  The next posts will be more math focused, but I hope to keep that sense of camaraderie gained from this post.