Conducting a Successful Class


 Over the past 23 years we’ve learned by our successes and failures of using this product in the classroom and online. Here is a list of recommendations we have compiled based on our experiences. Hopefully you’ll discover some more and let us know!

  • Make sure students explain their solutions and all graphs they produce.

  • Many instructors find it useful to have students use the following template, derived from Polya’s “How to Solve it” for writing up each homework problem which students can access via right-click menu and choosing Insert Solution Cell:

Solution Cell

  • Most instructors allow students to submit homework sets multiple times (especially early in the course). This is your best opportunity to help them learn not only the mathematics, but to instill them with the scientific habits. Students will quickly respond.

  • Encourage your students to go above and beyond the content. You will find that many students will get very excited about the possibilities they have discovered that this will not be a difficult challenge. Give praise and let them share their discovery.

  • Use multiple-choice questions sparingly. You will learn much more about what your students are thinking by reviewing the explanations they give in the more open-ended questions.

  • Avoid pre-lecturing or too many lectures. The original authors did a lot of experimentation with this and found that letting students struggle through the material with an instructor’s guidance cemented the concepts much deeper than spoon-feeding the material to the students. If you think about it, students are less likely to understand what you are talking about if they have no experience to base their understanding. Once students have spent time in a lesson, you will find that they will enthusiastically engage in discussions that wrap up the material learned.

  • Avoid solving problems for students (lead them by asking questions instead). People learn from making mistakes. Help your students to not fear making mistakes, but to learn to benefit their mistakes. Give guidance, but let the students do the thinking.

  • Ask open-ended questions. Avoid using computer-graded questions. Instructors are an important part of a student’s learning experience. Your students will benefit from your attention and your comments.