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X101: Learning Strategies for Math

Course Overview

2 credits, semester long, graded course. Open to all students as long as they are also enrolled in any section of Math M118: Finite Mathematics, during the same semester they are enrolled in X101.

Course Description

The long-term goal of this course is to support students in their Finite Mathematics M118 course. However, the course should not be viewed as re-teaching the “content” of M118. Rather, the course is designed to accomplish the above stated goal by helping students to become more active, independent problem solvers interested in truly understanding the mathematical concepts in contrast to a passive approach that relies on memorization, learning step-by-step procedures, and outside authority. In addition to the regularly scheduled X101 class meeting, students engage in several personal conferences with the X101 instructor and the Undergraduate Teaching Intern (UGTI), and are encouraged to attend M118 evening learning sessions with the UGTI at least once a week. The focus of these M118 evening learning sessions is on problem solving and thinking about how to do the problem solving necessary to solve M118 problems.

Course Structure

Course activities guide students to focus more on the thought processes being used rather than focusing entirely on finding the “right” answer to the problem. Students will be encouraged to become aware of, reflect upon, and consciously direct their thinking and problem-solving efforts. Another way to think about what is covered by this course is to think about success in M118 coming from not only “doing” math, but also “thinking about doing” math and “questioning what you are doing” in math. This is done primarily through expressing mathematical ideas orally and in writing as well as describing how they reached an answer or the difficulties they encountered while trying to solve a problem. In addition, students’ beliefs about the nature of mathematics and themselves as learners are addressed, as well as math study skills and strategies for coping with math/test anxiety and various lecture styles.

Course Objectives

Students have the opportunity to develop skills in the following areas:

1. Understanding of Math Material

  • Systematically and actively reading the math textbook so that one can recognize, understand, and remember the explicit and implicit main ideas and supporting details.
  • Critically understanding and synthesizing the relationships between math ideas and the organization of the math text.
  • Integrating one’s lecture and textbook notes so that one can prepare for tests.
  • Employing “questioning” and organized problem-solving techniques, which encourage one to become aware of, reflect upon, and consciously direct one’s thinking and problem-solving efforts.
  • Diagnosing and monitoring one’s mental processes while reading and learning math material and then writing personal reflections based on one’s learning.
  • Engaging in the self-discovery of knowledge — e.g. refining effective problem-solving techniques and rejecting ineffective ones.
  • Working with others to develop collaborative learning skills

2. Communication of Math Material

  • Taking lecture notes that effectively communicate to oneself and to others the material presented by a lecturer.
  • Writing about mathematical concepts and relational ideas
  • Orally presenting mathematical concepts and relational ideas in conversational language, i.e. to “speak” mathematics
  • Explicitly explaining one’s thought processes as one tries to solve math problems.

3. Math Behavior, Attitudes, and Beliefs

  • Addressing one’s own beliefs about the nature of mathematics and learning and oneself as a math learner, and if necessary, to change and develop behaviors and beliefs that facilitate mathematics learning.
  • Perservering when having trouble understanding and figuring out something in one way and trying different problem-solving methods, i.e. remaining actively involved with the problem.
  • Develop patience to employ to employ a step-by-step procedure to learn and solve math problems.
  • Developing a faith in persistent systematic analysis.
  • Developing a concern for accuracy and an avoidance of wild guessing.
  • Managing time effectively to keep pace with academic demands.
  • Feeling more comfortable with the format of objective and subjective exams.
  • Coping more effectively with stress, test anxiety, and math anxiety.

Who Benefits from Taking Education X101

  • Students that are likely to need to take more math classes beyond M118
  • Students who never seem to do as well in math classes as they feel they are capable of doing
  • Students who find themselves working harder in math classes than their other classes, but do not receive grades as high as they would like
  • Students who likely will be enrolling in other quantitative classes like accounting, economics, statistics, chemistry, physics, computer programming
  • Students who would not be satisfied with a “C” in M118
  • Students who tend to rely on memorizing steps to solve problems rather than on understanding concepts
  • Students who tend to rely on calculators to solve math problems
  • Students who would like to optimize their study skills
  • Students who would like additional help working in a small classroom with opportunities for more structured one-on-one math homework problem-solving
  • Students who want to know what it takes to do well at the college level
  • Students who tend to procrastinate and have poor self discipline

Typically, over 50% of the students who complete X101 earn “A’s” or “B’s” in Finite Math, M118, and fewer than 10% receive “D’s” or “F’s”.