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Encouragingcooperativesolutionof  mathematicsproblems  
J.BaldwinRobertaDeesDavidFoulseDavidTartako DepartmentofMathematicUniversityofIllinois,ChicagSeptember29,1995 
Abstrac
Tohelpstudentsadjusttogroupproblemsolving,questionscanbposedwithdierentstudentsreceivingdierent`clues'.Severalsucproblemsarepresentedhereandtheiruseinworkshopsisdescribed. Keywords:cooperativelearning,many-pieceproblem
BeginningwithTreisman'sdevelopmentoftheProfessionalDevelopment Program(PDP)attheUniversityofCalifornia,Berkeley5],anumberof universitiesacrossthecountryhavebegunprogramsthataimtoimprove performanceinelementarymathematicscoursesbyencouragingcollabora- tive/cooperativestudenteortonchallengingproblems.InTreisman'sstudy, studentsinvolvedintheseworkshops,African-Americanstudentsespecially, performedsignicantlybetterinthefreshmancalculuscoursethansimilar studentswithouttheworkshops.Theseresultshavebeenreplicatedatthe UniversityofIllinoisatChicagoduringthelasttwoyears.Suchresultareexpectedinthelightofresearchoncooperativelearningsuchasthat summarizedby4].Studentswhoworktogethertoclarifyquestions,discussandselectproblem-solvingstrategies,andresolvecontroversiesusualldemonstrategreatergainsinconceptdevelopmentandproblem-solvingabilitiesthansimilarstudentswhoworkalone.Cooperativelearninghasbeeassociatedwithanincreaseinproblem-solvingskillsofcollegestudents2]
 
TheUniversityofIllinoisatChicagohasabout20,000studemts.About 10%ofthestudentstakingPrecalculusandCalculusareenrolledinauxiliarPDPworkshops.Thecoursesmeetforthreelecturesandtworecitation sectionsperweek.TheworkshopsmeetfortwofurthertwohoursessionsAbout10%oftheclassregistrationisAfricanAmericanand15%HispanicThesegroupscompriseabout1/2thestudentsinthePDPworkshops.EacworkshopisledbyaTAandanundergraduateassistant.Thepresenceoftwfacilitatorsintheroommakesavaluablechangeinthecenterofgravityofthe classroom.Theseleadersmeetforseveralperiodsoftrainingatthebeginning oftheyearandoccasionallywhileclassescontinue.Alltrainingisconducted inthestylethatweintendforaPDPclass.Problems(bothmathematical andpedagogical)arediscussedinsmallgroupsandreportedtothemeeting. Thecoordinatorplaysafurtherimportantroleintheprogrambyhelping studentswiththebureaucracy,counseling,aswellasgeneralmanagementAdistinguishingfeatureofPDPprogramsistheuseofadditionalclastimetopresentstudentswithconceptualproblemsthatareoftentoohardfor asinglestudenttomaster.Indevelopingsuchaprogramatacommutercampuscertainadditionalobstaclesarise.ItisimportanttotrytodevelopclascohesionandawillingnesstocooperateasearlyinthesemesteraspossibleCommutingstudentsrarelyseeeachotheroutsideofclass.Thustheforma- tionofagroupofstudentscenteredonmathematicalinterestsisevenmorimportantthanataresidentialinstitution.Moreover,wewantthestudenttoworkcooperativelyonthesolutionoftheproblemsfromthebeginning. Ice-breakingexercises,suchasrequiringeachstudenttointroduceanother totheclassafterabriefinterview,helptoinstillasenseofmembershipithegroup.SuchasessionisdescribedunderExample5belowThelevelofinteractionweseekisnotthesameasindividuallysolving theproblemandthencomparinganswersorjustdoingseparatepartsofproblemwhichcanbecombinedtoansweralargerquestion.(Thesearealsvalidtechniquesinacourseofthissort,buttheydonotrequiretheintenscommunicationbetweenstudentsthatwearetryingtogenerate.Themany-pieceproblem(adaptedfromtheEQUALSproject3])isonwaytorequirethiskindofinteraction.Eachmemberofagroup(usuallystudents)ispresentedwithacluetotheproblem.Eachstudentmayread thecluealoud,butisnotallowedtoshowthecluetosomeoneelse.The groupmustworkfromtheinformationprovidedorallytosolvetheproblemGroupsof5or6canalsobyaccommodatedbyextraclues.Thesemaybe 
 
redundant;ifonlyfourstudentsareinthegroup,theextracluesarenot used. Originallytheseusuallywerelogicalpuzzles,inwhichstudentsmightbtryingtodetermine,amongvepeople,whichwasthedoctor,lawyer,mechanic,secretary,andphysicist.InkeepingwiththeequitygoalsofEQUALS, thedoctor,physicistandmechanicoftenturnedouttobefemales.Arecent publication3]includesmany-pieceproblemsonavarietyofsubjectmatterandlevelsHereisanicebreakingproblemthatdoesn'tcomeinmanypieces.Eacpairofpeopleatyourtableshouldshakehands.Howmanyhandshakewerethere?WhatifeachpairintheroomshookhandsStudentswhoarenotusedtoworkingtogethercanbeencouragedtodo sothroughlogicpuzzlesorrecreationaltopics.However,wepresentherenumberofexamplestoshowthatthetechniquecanbeusedtostudymaterial inthenormalcurriculum.WehavediscoveredthattheinformationinmorcomplexproblemscanoftenbedivideduptomeetourmajorrequirementEachstudentinthegroupshouldhaveinformationneededtosolvetheprob- lem.Thus,theparticipationofeverystudentisrequiredforacorrectgroup solution
1SomeExamplesofMany-pieceProblems  
1.1Example1
HereisproblemthatmightappearinanIntermediateAlgbraclassTheSimpsonsareconvertingasectionofawarehouseintoanapartmentTheyaredecoratinganopen20'x30'areathatwillserveasbothlivingroom anddiningroom.Theyhaveboughtanew9'x12'carpetforthelivingrooarea.Mrs.Simpson'smothergavethemanantiquebraidedcircularrug,11 feetindiameter,thattheyplantouseinthediningarea.TheSimpsonswilpaintonlytheoorareanotcoveredbythecarpets.Howmuchoorareneedstobepainted? Convertedtomany-pieceformat,inthiscasewithsomeediting,wehavaproblemforagroupoffourTheinstructorgivestheseGuidelines:`Hereisaproblemforyourgroup. Eachoneofyouwillhaveapieceofpaperwithpartoftheproblem.Youmasharetheinformationbytellingorreadingaloud.Youmaynotshowyour 

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