1 Hour Classes vs 2 Hour Blocks

August 18, 2010 at 8:50 am 4 comments

At College of the Sequoias most of our math classes are 4 unit classes and meet 4 days a week for 50 minutes a day. However, we also offer some sections twice a week (M,W or T,Th) in 2 hour blocks. As a rule I select classes that meet 4 days a week because I think that this format really helps students to learn and understand mathematics. This semester I do have an elementary algebra class that meets on Monday & Wednesday.

One reason I prefer classes that meet daily is that I typically cover one textbook section per hour. When I finish Monday’s section, my students have a day to work on homework before the subsequent section is presented on Tuesday. When teaching a 2 hour block class my students do not have a day for the previous section to sink in.

Another reason I prefer the daily classes is that I think students should be working on math every day, but many students enrolled in a class that meets twice a week only do math on those 2 days. There are 5 days between the last class of one week and the first class of the next week, and that is too large of a gap to be idle.

When I teach a class that meets twice a week I feel that I can not be absent. If I am sick I feel that I am missing 2 days of class and that it will be tough to make up for that time. This semester my college is hosting an On Course workshop that will meet Wednesday – Friday, and I would really like to go. But that would mean missing my two hour class and I am having a hard time justifying that. I feel that the workshop could have a positive impact on my teaching, but it means that one whole week will pass between meetings.

To be successful teaching a class that meets twice a week, it is essential that the classes are highly interactive. I spend 20-30 minutes covering the first section, followed by 20-30 minutes of group work. I then repeat the pattern for a second section. This way my students at least have some time to work on concepts from the first section before I try to build upon that material in the second section. If you don’t break up the class in some way that allows your students to get their hands dirty I can pretty much guarantee that their eyes will glaze over during the second hour of class and they will not understand what you are teaching. In this way, two hour block classes may be beneficial because it essentially forces you into teaching in what I consider to be an effective style.

Do you have any preferences between the two class schedules? Have you had success teaching classes that meet twice a week? Please share your experience and thoughts by leaving a comment, or reaching me through the contact page at my web site – georgewoodbury.com.


I am a math instructor at College of the Sequoias in Visalia, CA. Each Wednesday I post an article related to General Teaching on my blog. If there’s a particular topic 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 – http://georgewoodbury.com.


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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. georgewoodbury  |  August 18, 2010 at 9:20 am

    One thing I should have mentioned as a benefit of the 2-hour block format is that some topics go so well together naturally, such as solving linear equations in one step & solving general linear equations, solving absolute value equations &solving absolute value inequalities, or constructing confidence intervals using z & confidence intervals using t.

  • 2. colintgraham  |  August 18, 2010 at 10:38 am

    There’s no real ideal solution here, George. Sometimes you’re going to want to have a 2-hour block for in-class investigations or larger projects which bring different strands together. Other times you want the shorter block to tie-up a neat little package of learning. If the option was available, I’d be tempted to go for two short blocks on M & Tu and a 2-hour block on Thurs. That would allow for the textbook sections to be done/processed/homeworked etc. and then you could use the longer session for projects, with the weekend for journal/reflection/write-up…
    If you are planning to incorporate tech too, such as online manipulatives or apps like GeoGebra, a 2-hour session will provide greater flexibility for steep learning curves. You do need to have some kind of break around the 1-hour point though!

    • 3. georgewoodbury  |  August 20, 2010 at 10:50 am

      Colin, I love the M, T, 2-hr Th idea. I can’t imagine that we could pull it off with room availability, but it would be ideal. I think what I need to work on is a way to make my Wed & Thur classes into the project day – start on Wednesday and finish (or present) on Thursday.

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