Using MyMathLab To Increase Conceptual Understanding

March 22, 2010 at 1:37 pm 1 comment

Some instructors are skeptical about using MyMathLab because it emphasizes “drill and skill” and not conceptual understanding. In other words, students using MyMathLab learn how to mimick problems with little to no understanding of what they are doing. Although MyMathLab can be used in this way, I will be making the case that MyMathLab can be used to increase the conceptual understanding of your students.

Without a doubt, MyMathLab helps your students to learn how to solve problems. Before I started using MyMathLab I used to spend 10-15 minutes each day going over homework questions. Now I rarely get homework questions because the students who are doing the homework often work out their issues with the help of MyMathLab. So, what do I do with the extra 10-15 minutes per day? I spend that time talking about “big picture” ideas. I spend that time focusing on ideas that help my students to understand what they are doing, rather than creating a group of mimickers. We talk about ideas such as

  • When should we graph a line using its slope and when should we graph a line using its intercepts?
  • What does the slope of a line tell us? What do the intercepts of a line tell us?
  • When should we use the substitution method to solve a system of equations and when should we use the elimination method?
  • Why do we factor in order to solve a quadratic equation?
  • How is solving a quadratic equation different than solving a linear equation? How are they similar?

Besides the conceptual understanding that is developed inside the classroom, there are conceptual questions within MyMathLab as well. Most MyMathLab courses contain questions that focus on conceptual understanding, and there are more on the way.  Obviously, some of them are not self grading, but it is easy enogh to manually grade these problems.


My students’ conceptual understanding has never been higher. I ask several conceptual questions on each exam and my students are doing very well. I believe that this is due to the extra time I have gained by using MyMathLab: less time answering homework questions –> more time talking about big picture ideas and improving student understanding.


I am a math instructor at College of the Sequoias in Visalia, CA. Each Monday I post an article related to MyMathLab on my blog. If there’s a particular study skill you’d like me to address, or if you have a question or a comment, please let me know. You can reach me through the contact page on my website –


Entry filed under: General Teaching, Math, MyMathLab. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Diane  |  March 22, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    I agree – I find I have SO much more in-class time now and it helps me to not feel rushed. In turn, I think this helps me take the time to do better explanations of concepts and to take the time to try to make those ‘big picture’ leaps.


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