For teachers struggling to channel the complex concepts of calculus to their students, researchers at the University of British Columbia are heralding a new key component to the higher math learning process: interactivity.
In a recent study published in The International Journal on Mathematics Education, researchers found that first-year calculus students taught in an environment focused on interactive engagement were 10% more likely to reflect a higher conceptual understanding of the material and the increased ability to apply learned concepts toward new ideas. The study’s heightened engagement factor was achieved through a subject-focused “intervention” week, which employed active-learning pedagogies such as pre-class assignments, small-group discussions, and clicker quizzes designed to enhance student participation.
The project’s lead researcher, UBC mathematician and educational strategist, Warren Code, noted the high control level within the study in a press release: “You can’t replicate perfect lab conditions in the classroom. But we designed the observations so students acted as their own control, and each section outperformed the other on the topic for which it received the intervention. So to the degree possible, we’re comparing apples to apples.”
Teachers are increasingly adopting clicker technology into their classrooms, and the testimonials supporting their effectiveness are growing. With this study’s legitimization of interactional instruction techniques, teachers who have yet to test out highly interactive teaching methods may want to open their classroom doors to these new approaches.
Warren Code, Costanza Piccolo, David Kohler, Mark MacLean. Teaching methods comparison in a large calculus class. ZDM, 2014; DOI:10.1007/s11858-014-0582-2