Sunday, February 3, 2013

Using the VALUE Rubric for my courses

On the Professional Planning day before the semester began, the faculty in the Division of Science, Math and Engineering reviewed the VALUE (Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education) Rubric for Quantitative Literacy from the AAC&U (Association of American Colleges and Universities).

I enjoyed the discussion and decided last week as I sat down to grade the first Statistics Project to see if I could adapt the rubric I designed for these projects a few years ago to use the language of the VALUE rubric. While I primarily used the Quantitative Literacy Rubric, I also used the Written Communication Rubric as well.

I will use different parts of this rubric depending on the particular project as each project requires differing quantitative skills.

 I welcome your comments, and links to your assessments.

Project Rubric by Susan McCourt

Friday, September 14, 2012


I have been seeing teachers posting on their blogs and sharing documents using Scribd, so when I wanted to share my FakeBook page, I decided to give it a try.

What is Scribd

Scribd is a website where you can upload, download and share documents, publicly and privately. What I like about it is that the document itself appears on your blog page all ready to be shared and so your readers do not need an account to access the document. 

My Scribd Account is small, but I expect it to continue to grow as I continue posting here. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Better than an index card?

Every semester I asked students for information about them, usually on an index card, and rarely did I look at them again.

While reading blogs on Sunday, I ran across an idea from a high school math teacher blogger Aaron  about adapting a Facebook page to use for information.

He posted the page on Scribd and I decided to adapt his page for the college math classreoom and begin posting on Scribd too.

Here's my "Fakebook" page for students to complete:

Fakebook College

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Less Words, More Images, More Interaction

The first chapter of every statistics book is filled with definitions and vocabulary - very necessary, but can be incredibly boring to teach and to learn. I wanted to do it differently this year, so I totally reworked my lessons.

Who wants to start the semester with lecture and boredom? Not me - not this year.

Example: Visual Presentation 

We have to explain the difference between discrete and continuous variables. I used two photos (copied from the internet) of Starbucks that I projected on the screen. I said that the manager of a Starbucks wants to gather some data about their customers. She counts the number of customers who come through the drive through during the morning rush and she looks at the length of time a customer who comes inside to order stays in the restaurant. 

While I may have used the example in the past, this time I didn't write it out. I just posted the pictures and discussed it. And I wrote a brief definition of each measure below the picture. 

© 1999-2012 Dries Buytaert
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License.
Drupal is a Registered Trademark of Dries Buytaert.

Example: Participation 

In order to explain the different methods of sampling (simple random, stratified, cluster, etc.) I used an idea from the textbook (Michael Sullivan's Fundamentals of Statistics, 3rd ed.) .  I handed each student a card that had a letter on each side: "D" in red and "A" in green.  I read a statement and asked them to decide if they agree or disagree and show me their card. Tip: The most varied response was from "I enjoyed my lunch today." We counted up responses and found the actual percentage who agreed and disagreed.  I asked them to remember their response and use the same one for the entire exercise. Then we used the sampling methods to have them participate in the sampling. On the board I wrote the method and posted the counts of each sample. They helped me create definitions for each and they asked great questions and were engaged in the class. We even discussed some of the pros and cons of each method with real world examples.

What was different for me? 

The definitions came from the students more than me setting them out first and offering them an example. They were definitely more engaged in the class. While I hope that this is reflected in their quiz scores, I am pleased to see students more relaxed, which is unusual in the first week of statistics. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

New Years Resolutions

Yes, it's a New Year when you're a teacher. And this year I am continuing to focus on the positive and look at a positive change that I want to make:

  • Begin each day and class with a positive intention: This is one I co-opted from Oprah Winfrey. I consider what is my positive intention when planning and teaching. It makes a huge difference for me. Try it! 
Rather than set myself up for failure like most who have New Year's Resolutions, I want to try something different. I'm going to have Monthly Resolutions. This will be the first and if it is not exactly monthly that I review this, that's OK

Welcome Email to Online Students

Things that surprised me when I started teaching online:

  • Some students email you weeks before the class starts. They want to get the materials and a syllabus before I'm done creating it.
  • Some students need you to remind them when the class starts and what to do or they waste a week of class not logged in and missing the orientation activities.
So I decided several years ago to send out an email to all students registered for the course a week in advance. I tell the first group that the email is coming soon and stay posted. And most of the second group has a better idea of what to do.

I send out the letter below with a detailed instruction sheet for how to access the course website and a copy of the syllabus.

Here's the letter:

Hello students!

If you are receiving this email, you are registered in one of the online courses I am teaching in the Fall 2012 semester! Class begins Tuesday, September 4th! 

Class Meetings: Math 125 does not meet face to face at all as a class.

Books and Materials you need:We will be a website that includes an online textbook, videos, homework, quizzes and more. I will provide you with access information on the first day of classes - TUESDAY via the BCC eLearning website. (  The information is also in the second attachment.
You will need to purchase access to Course Compass. Unless the price has changed, access is $78 and can be purchased with a credit or debit card or PayPal. You can also buy the code in the bookstore, but they have added an additional mark up to the cost. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO PURCHASE A HARD COPY OF THE TEXTBOOK, BUT YOU CAN IF YOU WISH TO HAVE ONE. (Since you have any updates on the website, an older edition is fine).

Textbook for Math 125:  A Survey of Mathematics with Applications (9th Edition) by Angel, Abbott, Runde.YOU DO NOT HAVE TO PURCHASE A HARD COPY OF THE TEXTBOOK, BUT YOU CAN IF YOU WISH TO HAVE ONE. (Since you have any updates on the website, an older edition is fine).

What will it be like to take an ONLINE MATH COURSE?   I will use a mix of video mini-Lessons, readings from the textbook, concept activities with discussion board responses, and an online homework and quiz management system. In Math 125, you’ll be writing two brief papers about Mathematics/Mathematicians and taking your exams online.

 WARNING: Online mathematics courses are intended for students with high-speed internet access.  You can use campus computers for high-speed internet access if you do not have it at home.

Another WARNING: During a standard 15-week semester, an online course requires a minimum time commitment of 12 hours per week. If you do the math, 12 hours divided by 6 days (one day off for good behavior), you will see this works out to at least 2 hours per day.  If you do not have this time in your schedule, you may want to consider signing up for a face to face section of this course. Of course, time will vary due to your own ability with mathematics, connection speed, etc.

You’ll find some system requirement information here: 

I’m looking forward to starting the new semester with you.
Inspired Math Professor

Any comments and suggestions are welcomed! 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

New Year, New Outlook?

I am hoping that this new Academic Year can bring me a new, fresh perspective. It's one of the great things about teaching. We don;t have to change jobs to start over. We start over very semester!

I'm following a series of posts from I Speak Math designed to encourage new math teacher bloggers. And maybe it can inspire me to start blogging again.
Creative Commons License
Inspired Math Professor Blog by Susan McCourt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.