Active learning review activities for MAT 142

Submitted by Dorothy Miller on

MAT 142 focuses on real-world application problems for non-science/engineering students.  These students typically do not like math and struggle in understanding the concepts.

To help students understand the material better and increase motivation, I placed students in mixed ability groups and required students complete an experiment-based activity and set of application problems at the end of each unit. These activities included tasks such as determining the area and perimeter of various geometric figures using compound shapes and distinguishing between theoretical and experimental probability through dice games. 

I applied this strategy in two 8-week courses this semester.  The first 8-week section had a strong increase in performance with a 93.75% pass rate and 85.13% grade average, whereas the second 8-week section had a pass rate of 92.8% but only a 75.17% grade average. This compares with a 87.4% pass rate and 74.75% grade average during the previous 16-week session.  This increase in both “pass rate” and average performance appears to be significant enough to continue this strategy in the future.

Completed Full Cycle
Course Number
MAT 142
Average: 5 (62 votes)


Peter Turner Tue, 01/07/2014 - 7:41am

Dorothy, I disagree that you did not complete the full cycle! You absolutely did; you were dissatisfied with the status quo, you implemented a new strategy, and you got enough positive results to continue the strategy. That's what the action research cycle is all about! Well done.

One question; I too use collaborative groups in my classes. One tendency noted is that if particular tasks are not outlined for every member of the group, there will be "slackers." How do you avoid this tendency?

Dorothy Miller Tue, 01/21/2014 - 12:59pm

In reply to by Peter Turner

Hi Pete-

Yes, using collaborative learning can be a challenge in a math class because there are always students who will try to skate by.  As you mentioned, I try to assign tasks to each student if possible.  This is easy to do in my math ed. methods classes where students have specific projects that last several days, but harder to do when students only collaborate for 15 minutes to an hour.  

In these cases, I just try to keep groups small (2 or 3 students) and verbally stress the need to all work together.  I also require students to present the problems to the class.  When I do this, all the students seem to become more involved, just in case they are the ones who have to present the problem.

Thanks for your comments- 

Dorothy Miller

Erik Huntsinger Mon, 01/20/2014 - 5:43pm

I agree with Pete, you have completed the full cycle by first collecting data through traditional teaching methods, then tried something different and reassessed.  I will use my privileges as SAAC co-chair to edit your form to show that the cycle has been completed, but please feel free to change it back if you do not believe it has (but please provide an explanation as to why not).  

Overall, kudos to you for bringing more real-world learning activities to your students- you have demonstrated that it has improved student learning.

Bronwen Steele Tue, 01/21/2014 - 12:25pm

Just curious, since MAT 142 has nursing students, do you do any chem applications? Yes, definitely this was a complete cycle. Luckily Erik is all powerful.

Dorothy Miller Tue, 01/21/2014 - 12:53pm

In reply to by Bronwen Steele

Hi Bronwen-

Yes, there are chem. applications.  The quizzes we are giving this semester are very similar in that we can use them before exams to help reinforce the important content, enable them to them assess their level of knowledge, and clarify any any misconceptions they may have.  

I expect the average grades in CHM 131 to go up due to the new format (frequent quizzes in lieu of an extra test) because students will now have a better idea of what they know versus what they don't know, enabling them to focus their learning a bit more.  I'll let you know how it went at the end of the semester :)

Dorothy Miller