Thursday, March 31, 2011

Twitter-like in Calculus

Recently I tried to embrace the idea of using twitter in my calculus class.  I used the website  this site can create a Twitter-like environment for my students. 
Two essential ideas of calculus are deriving the slope at a specific point of a non-constant function, and determining the limit of a function at a point.  Without boring all my non-math followers, these are ideas which can be explained many different ways and some students have a trouble understanding them as they are quite abstract. 
The task:
My students, in groups of 4, had to come up with the process of determining the slope and a limit at a point.  As I circulated through the class I noticed some groups had a lot of extraneous information on their page.  Trying to promote a concise solution, I loaded up the website and asked my students to take out their cell phones. 
Each group had at least one person who had a cell phone with an unlimited text plan.  Students where then required to text in an answer, for both questions one at a time, using 140 characters or less.  I turned off my projector and gave my students time to think.
In the picture is one snapshot of the answers.
The learning did not stop there.  As a group, we went through the answers and critiqued them, adding any missing information, or taking out non-needed information.  I was amazed at the engagement and learning that occurred.  Students were even “googling” "when can you not find the derivative"; a concept that was going to be introduced later in the week.

Math is no longer "Page 46, the odds" out of a textbook.  If you put emphasis on repetition, in your math class, then I forewarn you that your students were learn to hate the repetitive nature you are asking them to do.  If you don't believe me, and you teach through repetition, I ask some small favour:  Ask your students if they find merit in your daily homework, and if you made the homework truly optional would they still complete it?


  1. Fantastic post!I wish you had captured it on video tape to share with other teachers to show what engagement can look like in the classroom. I lost your original twitter post for a RT, so I sent out a new post. Thanks for sharing, I look forward to looking around your blog!
    Meg Ormiston

  2. Great post! I really like how you engaged the students to text their comments to the Web page. Writing short statements like these impels them to think.

    Very, very nice.


  3. Great post! In case anyone is interested in trying with [presentation size] multiple choice questions, please start at the following page:

    It's meant to be convenient-- I use it because eliminates the hassle of minimizing /resizing windows and a web browser is all that is required. I have already loaded many presentation size polling questions.

  4. Hi, Some one from facebook refereed your link i have book marked it nice blogs you write see Free  how to grow twitter followers here