Mathematics for Life: Are You Teaching Students the Math They Really Need?

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Join Dr. Jeffrey Bennett for an explanation on how to create a course that focuses on the concepts and skills your students will actually use in their in their daily lives.

Dr. Jeffrey Bennett, University of Colorado Boulder

Make a list of mathematical skills and concepts that are crucial to daily life in modern society. Does it match the content of your core mathematics requirement for students in non-STEM majors? Sadly, most college professors answer "no." Moreover, even when course content does seem applicable to daily life, many students don't seem to see the importance.

We can trace the roots of these problems to two simple facts. First, most non-STEM students are still thrown into courses that were originally designed to prepare students for further work in mathematics (such as college algebra or developmental courses), when in reality this will almost certainly be the last mathematics course they ever take. Second, most of the students in these required courses will self-identify themselves either as "math phobics" (they're afraid of math) or "math loathers" (they don't like math).

Clearly, such predispositions are an impediment to teaching. Fortunately, the solution to both problems is equally simple, at least in principle: Create a course that focuses on concepts and skills that your students will actually use in their other college courses, in their careers, and in their daily lives, and teach this material in a way that shows them its context and relevance so clearly that they cannot help but become engaged. In this talk, I will explain how a course in “quantitative reasoning” can do this, along with examples from the forthcoming edition of the textbook I co-author (Bennett and Briggs, Using and Understanding Mathematics, published by Pearson).