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Interactive Instruction, Remediation, And Research In

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Computers and Software in Teaching Mathemathetics

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

14.781.1 - 14.781.7



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Paper Authors

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Marilyn Reba Clemson University

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Interactive Instruction, Remediation, and Research in Freshman Calculus via Pen-Technology and Web-based Software Abstract

Too many students in Freshman Calculus are unprepared for the pace at which new concepts are introduced, are unable to implement prerequisite Algebra skills, and are unwilling to seek answers to their questions in front of their classmates. We report on how the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Clemson University, through a partnership with the Computer Science Department, has used Tablet PCs and the web-based interactive software, MessageGrid, to address these issues over the past four semesters. Pen-technology in large-enrollment content- heavy Calculus courses provides new ways to communicate with struggling students: projection of anonymous student-inked submissions; "personalized" feedback on group activities; student- generated audio-video podcasts; in Fall 2008, quick identification and remediation of weak algebra skills via inking on Mathpad, and in Spring 2009 through an NSF grant, tagging of student errors in inked responses. We report a higher percentage of students able to enroll in second-semester Calculus. Despite this emerging evidence of greater student success and despite very positive faculty and student perceptions, it is not easy to expand the set of math faculty willing to try the technology. Yet, interest in Tablet PCs (and MessageGrid) is flourishing at Clemson, due to a 2007 Hewlett Packard Leadership Grant which placed Tablet PCs into a multidisciplinary technology classroom and attracted faculty from Engineering and other departments willing to invest time to learn new pedagogical techniques.


Approximately 20% of students in first-semester Freshman Calculus at Clemson University in Fall 2007 earned Ds (poor), Fs (fail) or Ws (withdraw) and either had to repeat the course or abandon their STEM career goals. This DFW rate represented nearly a 50% reduction in the rate from Fall 2005, attributable to a new instructional model and a new placement procedure implemented by the Department of Mathematics in Fall 2006. All sections of Calculus I adopted a variation of the SCALE-UP active-learning instructional model which includes short lectures, student collaboration at round tables, and graded group activities.1 The placement procedure was altered so that more students had to enroll in "Long Calculus,” a one-year course interspersing Algebra review into a slow-paced Calculus I. Performance statistics (like the 20% DFW rate cited above) indicate that these have been important improvements, but we have not stopped there in trying to address the needs of at-risk students. With a 2006 Hewlett-Packard Technology for Teaching grant, we placed Tablet PCs into several sections of a Freshman Liberal-arts Math course and found that student perceptions, behavior and performance (especially of weaker students) improved.2 By placing these Tablet PCs and others, obtained through a 2007 Hewlett Packard Leadership Grant, into the first semester of Freshman Calculus, we can reach a significant portion of that intractable group of students who fall behind early and fail to earn the C or better needed to move into Calculus II second semester.

Reba, M. (2009, June), Interactive Instruction, Remediation, And Research In Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--4571

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