Introduction to Math Autobiography and Course Reflection Assignments

Christopher Reisch
The State University of New York at Buffalo
103 Talbert Hall
Buffalo, New York 14260

Phone: (716) 645-2394

The Thomas J. Edwards Learning Center was established to serve students who enter college below what the University considers "college level math and english" skills. In addition to several reading and writing courses, we offer three mathematics courses intended to build off of each other and prepare students for calculus. 146: Introductory Algebra is suited for students with weak or no algebra skills. The course assumes no previous knowledge or exposure to algebra and basically starts off at square one, a review of arithmetic. 147: Intermediate Algebra does assume students have had solid exposure to algebra, but have been away from it for a period of time and have forgotten it. Essentially, it is a refresher course in high school algebra. 148: College Algebra and Trigonometry is a functions based course which serves two purposes. For students whose majors do not require them to take mathematics, 148 as a terminal course and fulfills their university mathematics requirement. Alternatively, if a student is required to go on in mathematics, this course serves as a springboard into calculus.

Over the past 5 years, I have come into contact with hundreds of students from all three levels of mathematics, and they have individual and common needs. One need that I think many students share (especially in the lower level courses) is the need to build confidence as doers of mathematics. I believe that one way to accomplish this is through setting goals, considering and implementing strategies to attain these goals, and then reflecting on these experiences. The two assignments I have presented here are designed to do exactly this. I've also included a copy of my 146 Syllabus from Fall, '99, which should help give you a fuller context for the assignments and the course.

In the first assignment (The Math Autobiography), students are asked to reflect upon and describe where they are coming from, where they are now, and where they are going. They are asked to set goals for themselves and identify strategies to help them achieve these goals.

The second assignment (Course Reflection) continues the reflecting process. It asks students to look back on the semester and the writing they did in the Autobiography and to consider the following: What did I want to accomplish this semester? What did I do to insure my success? How can I build off of this experience in my next mathematics course?

As a final note to the reader, I consider all of my assignments and writings to be "works in progress." If you have any suggestions as to how I could improve on these assignments, any comments on them, or even to let me know how they may or may not have worked for you, please feel free to contact me. I have included my contact information above. Thank you for reading.

Publication Information: Reisch, Christopher. (2000). Teaching Exchange: Introduction to Math Autobiography and Course Reflection Assignments. Academic.Writing.
Publication Date: March 26, 2000

Copyright © 2000 Christopher Reisch. Used with Permission.