Frameworks for Mathematics Course: FAQs

How much preparation do I need to do to teach this course?

Faculty implementing this curriculum for the first time report spending a good deal of time preparing, just as they do any time they teach a course for the first time. These instructors suggest reading through the entire curriculum before you begin teaching the course to get an idea of how the activities build upon each other and where there is flexibility in timing throughout the semester.

The curriculum contains some activities that are universally applicable (such as how the brain works, information processing, and note taking) and some activities that need to be customized to include campus- or college-specific information (such as connections to campus resources and explorations of available technology). The latter activities need to be tailored to the unique resources and information that are available at your college or campus and are most relevant to students’ success. The curriculum materials provide samples of many of these tailored activities, as well as guidance on where on your campus to look to get the information needed for that particular activity or lesson.

Do we have to teach the lessons in the order provided?

We recommend that the Frameworks curriculum be implemented in the order it is written. Topics are strategically sequenced, guided by theory and proven practice.

The sequencing of lessons is designed so that activities build on the foundation established by earlier lessons. In some cases, the foundational activities may be two or three lessons earlier. If you decide to use an activity out of sequence, we recommend that you read through the lessons that precede it to identify readings and/or preparation assignments necessary for the activity to run smoothly and for the lesson to effectively achieve the course and activity outcomes.

Another important design feature of the Frameworks course is that more challenging and sensitive material is introduced only after students have completed activities intended to build a culture of learning and sense of community in the classroom. Any use of materials out of sequence should take this feature into consideration.

Are sample exam questions available for us to use?

The midterm and final exam lessons provided within the curriculum do not include exam questions. However, the Dana Center does have a small number of multiple-choice and short-answer questions prepared and available to share if you are interested. Please contact mathways@austin.utexas.edu for more information about accessing these items.

Why are some topics (such as learning styles) not included in this course?

You may notice that some topics you have previously used in your learning frameworks or study skills course have not been explicitly covered in this curriculum.

The topics included in the curriculum

  • are the most critical to the overall course objectives and corresponding pacing
  • are grounded in empirical evidence of their effectiveness
  • support the other topics

Some topics you are accustomed to teaching in a course such as this are embedded in this curriculum in subtle ways. For example, while we do not have students complete a learning styles inventory or a lesson dedicated to learning styles, the curriculum does reinforce that students are building a toolbox of strategies to use in their academic endeavors and that they should consider the demands of the task and their own preferences when choosing which strategy to employ. The curriculum also includes suggestions for how students can incorporate their preferences into a strategy (e.g., drawing diagrams or using pictures on flash cards in addition to using words, or creating skits and stories to enact course content as they learn).

Will students work in groups and if so, how?

Much of the work in this course is done collaboratively; students will often work in pairs or small groups to discuss, plan, and execute activities in the curriculum. Engaging in these activities encourages students to become more critical thinkers and provides a space for students to share and learn from each other’s experiences.

Research that supports the efficacy of collaborative learning indicates that students benefit from exploring topics with their peers and that they tend to explore topics more deeply and push each other further when they work together. Working in groups also helps students gain different perspectives on a topic and develop interpersonal relationship skills.

The emphasis on group work does not mean that students will not be held individually accountable for mastering the material in the course.

What kinds of group structures are written into the curriculum?

Success teams: These small groups of four to six students should remain consistent throughout the semester. These groups should be relatively diverse (e.g., try to include students with different majors, life experiences, and attitudes), since the diversity of experiences will enable good discussions throughout the semester. Success teams will work together on many lessons and on the semester-long project. If possible, set up the desks or tables in your classroom so that group members can face one another.

Pairs: You can have students partner up with an elbow partner (someone sitting right next to them) or ask them to partner with someone they have not yet worked with. Be aware that within the curriculum, partner discussions are designed to be quick conversations with very specific questions for students to respond to—little time is allowed for repositioning and partnering up. Having students work in different pairs throughout the semester helps them build relationships outside of their core success teams.

Expert groups: These groups can be used to “jigsaw” a topic—that is, approach a topic from several different angles. With this strategy, success team members each join a different expert group to explore one aspect of a topic in detail, then return to their success teams to share their expertise. As each success team member shares his or her expertise, teams develop a rich understanding of the topic as a whole.

How will I manage group discussions?

One concern we have heard from instructors is that they are hesitant to move on to the next part of an activity when students are engaged in and contributing productively to a good discussion. A good deal of learning takes place during these kinds of discussions, and determining when to move on to the next part of an activity is more art than science.

As you become more familiar with the curriculum, you may find that some of the discussion points students bring up segue nicely into the next part of the activity or into a later part of the lesson. In any event, the curriculum is designed to have students constantly thinking and engaged, and it is likely that students will be able to incorporate their contributions into later discussions, both within their success teams and in a whole-class discussions.

What is the role of video clips in this course? Can I choose or create my own?

In many of the activities, descriptions of video clips and links to them are included. These clips were selected for a number of reasons: they align to the learning outcomes of a given activity, are pedagogically sound in their presentation, have been well-received by students previously, or they cover a topic efficiently—that is, they provide good bang for the buck with respect to time.

If you choose to use a video clip you have selected, please make sure that the clip is appropriate for the course and that it supports the outcomes for a given activity.

Regardless of which clips you choose to show, make sure you have access to these clips in your classroom—some institutions have firewalls designed to block certain websites (YouTube clips, for example, are commonly blocked on school campuses).

Do you have additional questions?

Please contact us at mathways@austin.utexas.edu, and we will be happy to provide additional information.

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