Wednesday, June 5, 2013

If You Aren't Having Fun...

By Angie Hodge

As you watch the video below (made by my students!), keep in mind that my teaching motto for years has been “If you aren’t having fun, you aren’t learning.”

Smiling? I hope so!

Before I describe how this video came together, let me say that not everything I’ve tried in my classes over the years has been such a success. Sometimes things flop. Sometimes things work. This one worked.

For the last two years, I’ve offered students in my second semester calculus classes an opportunity to earn extra credit. After watching Calculus the Musical for the first time last spring, I thought it would be neat to motivate my students to create fun videos or skits about the mathematical concepts they had learned in Calculus II. I asked students to pick a topic that they had learned in the course and create a video that would help other students review the material for the final exam. For example, they could select “tests for series convergence” and create a video reviewing these tests and when to use each of them.

The first time I gave this extra credit assignment I called it “Calculus the Musical Doc Hodge Style.” (My students that semester had given me the title of Doc Hodge.) I had no takers on the video, but one group did create a fun song with calculus words. This was nice, but it wasn’t something that could easily be shared with others to inspire them to learn math.

This year, my students took it to the next level. One student wrote a song about l'Hôpital’s rule. Then she found two other students in the course who could sing well and a host of students willing to be the dancers in the video. Lastly, the editors of the video (also students) put everything together. The video was premiered to our class with theater-style lighting and programs.

From a teacher’s standpoint, three things stand out to me when watching this video: (a) trust, (b) excitement, and (c) learning. The students had to trust each other to be able to work together on such a big project, especially one where they had to sing and dance. They also had to be excited about the subject matter to have this much fun creating the video. The best part was that they showed in the video that they had learned something well enough to create a video with words that made mathematical sense.

My last comment is that at the University of Nebraska Omaha, l'Hôpital’s rule is not a topic first learned in Calculus II. Instead, it is first taught with limits and used extensively in Calculus I. Isn’t it interesting that the students cited learning this in Calculus II (an inquiry-based course) and not in Calculus I? Just something to ponder…