EDDIE Pre-workshop Essay for: Teaching Quantitative Reasoning with DataMary Beth Kolozsvary, Environmental Studies and Sciences, Siena College
Some of the challenges I find with teaching quantitative reasoning, or just having students work with data in the classroom, is that students in my classes can have a wide-range of abilities. Some students can pick things up very quickly, whereas many students have significant fear of math and working with numbers. It is a mental block that causes them substantial stress. This wide-range of abilities and aptitude makes it incredibly challenging. Although I teach some non-majors courses, most of the courses I teach are geared towards Environmental Studies and Sciences majors. I am a firm believer that each of these students is fully capable of developing quantitative skills, but getting them to that place in a classroom setting is a big challenge.
Many of my classes have lecture and labs. Lectures have 18-28 students and labs have 10-14 students. I often have the students work in pairs, and mix up the pairs of students throughout the course – that way, they don't get stuck in a situation where one student does all the work while the other just watches. I also have students bring their laptops into lectures as we work with datasets. That seems to go well, but I still struggle with getting the right balance. I am looking forward to sharing my experiences and learning other strategies to use to overcome these stumbling blocks!