Thursday, June 2, 2011

14th Annual Legacy of R. L. Moore Conference - Day 1

Opening Remarks

The 14th Annual Legacy of R. L. Moore Conference is in Washington DC this year (June 2-4, 2011). David Bressoud and Paul Zorn, both MAA presidents, opened the conference. Bressoud outlined the results of the MAA survey of mainstream Calculus I classes across the nation. Here is where our students are:

Even more interesting is where our calculus instructors are: David's columns are short and are well worth reading.

Sandra Laursen spoke about the recently completed data analysis for a large, multi-method study of inquiry-based learning in college mathematics as implemented across four university IBL Mathematics Centers. She will talk more in depth about the results of the study on Saturday, but here are a few brief comments.

  • Women report greater learning gains in IBL courses as opposed to traditional courses.

  • IBL students report a deeper interest in the subject.

  • Lower GPA students report greater gains than higher GPA students.

  • For students enrolled in content courses for pre-service elementary school teachers, lower achievers make greater gains on the LMT (

  • There was no damage to higher GPA students.

Ted Mahavier (Lamar University) presented The Moore Method: Transformative Experiences.
Stan Yoshinobu (Cal Poly San Luis Obispo) presented Saving Ally

Stan gave evidence that the current system is not meeting the needs of our students or our society. Our current system has its roots in the industrial revolution, where the educational system was developed to train leaders. Ally is an average 5th-grade student in a high performing school. The demographics put her in the 75th percentile of all California students. Ally is presented with pairs of fractions and asked to compare them. Ally displays some very confusing and faulty reasoning in making her choices. Stan pointed out that Ally will be tracked into the lower level classes in middle school. He points out that we have probably lost Ally forever.

Stan asks his pre-service teachers to write their mathematical autobiography at the beginning of their first content course. The comments were not unexpected, but never the less informative. Most had had a negative experience and this was usually around the end of elementary school (fractions).

Stan's slides are worth seeing. He has promised to put them online. I will post the link as soon as I receive it.

Nathaniel Miller (University of Northern Colorado) presented Multiply-Modified Methods: The Many Faces of the Inquiry-Based Learning in my Classes.

After a break, we listened to a new users panel followed by breakout contributed paper sessions.

Tonight's dinner speaker will be - Mike Starbird (University of Texas at Austin), who is always entertaining. Starbird will speak on Transforming Lives: Teaching Thinking and Creativity

Abstract: Beyond teaching mathematical skills, IBL experiences frequently involve interesting consequences on students’ attitudes concerning self-reliance, independent thinking, persistence, and willingness to make mistakes. IBL courses can transform lives.

Defining IBL

Sandra Laursen pointed out two features of IBL courses.

  • A deep engagement with the mathematics.

  • Collaboration.

I have been working on my own definition of IBL for the last several years, and here it is.
  • Asking students to be responsible for their own learning. Giving students classroom opportunities to be responsible for their own learning and to share and/or collaborate their learning with their peers.

The definition may change by the end of the week.

Conference Details

Details of the 14th Annual Legacy of R.L. Moore Conference can be found at

Personal Notes

This is the first time that I have ever been to Washington DC during the summer (a.k.a. tourist season). First observation: the true tourists really standout. Second observation: it seems to be more hot and humid here than in east Texas.

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