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Minute notes

The main reason for writing these posts is because I am giving a talk about teaching at the British Mathematical Colloquium next week. This has been an opportunity to prepare for the talk by reflecting on my teaching, particularly over the last few years.

During this time while consulting books and websites I have come across many great ideas about task and activities that I do not do and perhaps I should do. So until the end of this month I’ll be writing a post every day about these. It should be borne in mind that I have not tested many of these and so they come with no guarantees!

(The reason for stopping at the end of the month is that in May I will be finishing my next book. The final draft has been sitting in a metaphorical drawer since January waiting for me to come to it with fresh eyes. All the horrible bits and typos should jump out and so I’ll move onto Final Draft Version 2…)

So here’s the first activity:


One book I highly recommend to new mathematics lecturers is How to Teach Mathematics by Steven G. Krantz. The Second Edition is the one to find as it contains some great appendices written by critics of the First Edition. For some reason these have been removed from the Third Edition. The book itself contains huge amounts of helpful advice about teaching higher level mathematics. I don’t agree with all he says but he asks many of the important questions and draws together many practical solutions to teaching problems.

The activity Minute Notes (p.120, 2nd Ed) gives students a minute every week or so to write on a piece of paper about what they are having trouble with in the course. The papers are collected and read immediately so that the teacher can gain an insight into what the students are struggling with.

What I like about this is that it regular — weekly — and will fit in very well with the vogue for non-lecturing via “flipped” classes where sessions are tailored to dealing with student misunderstandings.

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