MyMathLab – Part of the Equation

October 11, 2010 at 5:57 am 1 comment

I had a conversation with a colleague last week about switching textbooks in a couple of courses. The conversation shifted to MyMathLab, which comes with many of the textbooks on our short stack. Her concern was that MyMathLab alone is not enough for students to learn and understand, and it’s a valid concern.

MyMathLab is a great way to get students the practice that they need, but students can do well with MyMathLab homework and still struggle on exams. This could be due to students over-relying on the learning aids such as “Show an Example” or “Help Me Solve This”. Students also could be “gaming” MyMathLab, looking for patterns in the answers to the algorithmically generated problems. (For pointers for how students can use MyMathLab effectively, check out this earlier blog.)

Students need to be writing out and solving their MyMathLab in the same fashion they will solve problems on their exam. As instructors, we need to also evaluate written work. There are lots of ways to do this.

  • Have students keep a “MyMathLab notebook” in which they write out the solutions to all MyMathLab problems. This could be turned in at each exam.
  • Give brief quizzes at the beginning of class. This gives you a chance to evaluate students’ work while at the same time evaluating the performance of the class on key problems.
  • Collect and grade selected textbook exercises each day. Again, this not only gives you a chance to evaluate the work of your students, it allows you to track the performance of your class on key problems.
  • Have students go to the board to solve problems during class.
  • Put problems on the board during class and make your way around the classroom, checking the work of the students.

I have been all over the country and talked with instructors about MyMathLab, and the one thing I try to point out is that MyMathLab is not the silver bullet but instead needs to be incorporated as a piece of an overall class strategy to help students learn and understand mathematics. It’s not something that can take over and teach your students, it helps you to teach your students.

Do you evaluate student’s written work while using MyMathLab? Please share by leaving a comment, or reaching me through the contact page at my web site – georgewoodbury.com.

-George

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 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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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. val harris  |  October 12, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    My students are required to keep a notebook. They are also required to achieve a 75% on tests before advancing on to the next chapter. Although they are allowed to take the test again, it is password protected. This means they must come and see me, or I sit and visit with them in the math center, and we look at the questions they missed and find them in their notes. They are quickly learning that showing their work can really earn them points…not that I didn’t do this before MyMathLab ever came around, but seeing points magically appear provides them with an immediate reward.

    Reply

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