Moore is more

I’m wrapping up a full year of straight-up Moore method* in MATH 280 (our department’s “intro to proofs” course), and it’s only in the last week or so that I’ve noticed something interesting: in neither of the last two semesters have I received significant push-back from students regarding this form of pedagogy; only one student out of the 37 I’ve had in the class the last two terms has expressed the slightest hesitation.

In contrast, my past attempts to use this method (in lieu of the moderate forms of inquiry-based and problem-based approaches I typically adopt) have been met with widespread resistance, “widespread” defined as roughly 25-30% of a given class. “I don’t learn this way,” “I need someone to show me lots of examples before I get it,” “my friends aren’t as good at explaining things as you are. I mean, you’re the professor, after all.”

What’s changed?

My guess: it’s possible that I’m seeing a new generation of students in my classes, students who are more used to the student-centered experiential learning, inquiry-based learning (IBL), and problem-based learning (PBL) I rely upon. I know that more and more K-12 educators are employing IBL and PBL approaches in mathematics courses, and it’s inevitable that those students, once they’ve made their way to college, will be more receptive of the Moore method. Though it’s “only” been about four years since I last used the Moore method (see this wrap-up post from my Spring 2012 semester), four years offer a fair amount of time for developing math majors to accustom themselves to new pedagogical practices.

Notably, by the way, the one student who lodged any kind of complaint this time around was a non-traditional-age student. I urged him to give it a chance, and a few weeks later he thanked me for the encouragement to keep at it, admitting that I was right about its efficacy.

Before I go, a slight, sad update: owing to a posh event being put on today by UNC’s Eshelman School of Pharmacy (well, lah tee dah), I had to take down the Plate House after it had stood for only 44 hours. A few folks helped me to dismantle it into four chunks, which we laid alongside one another in the lobby of my building’s basement floor. There it now rests, looking like an earth-colored origami coral reef. I hope to piece it together again…maybe in a dull moment or ten during finals week.

*Note: For those who aren’t familiar with the student-centered inquiry-based practice known as the “Moore method,” you can find a quick primer on the Legacy of R. L. Moore’s website.



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