Math 700: Teaching Workshop for Graduate Students

Spring 2004 Syllabus

Professor Eric Hsu,
TH 932,, AOL IM: EricHsuSFSU

Web Page. This syllabus appears at

Goals and Background. The goal of this workshop is for graduate student instructors to develop and refine their teaching. Teaching is not only presentation, but it is also course planning, classroom decision making and post-instruction reflection. We will work on these skills in the context of the classes we are teaching. The general strategy is for us to take turns sharing an idea for class that we want to try, collect suggestions, and then report on the actual implementation. A secondary goal is for us to contribute to an archive of our experiences in the classroom for ourselves and future teachers.

Required Activities

Working Groups. You will be arranged into groups of approximately ten teachers. The teams are intended to be teaching the same course and will be able to meet occasionally out of class.

Live Meetings. Each working group will meet live with me and Professor Kysh. The first meeting will occur around week 6, and the second around week 10. Part of the work will involve reporting on your lesson ideas. Times will be announced soon.

Online Discussion Forum. You are to participate in an online discussion forum, hosted at Access instructions appear at the end of this document. You are free to read and reply to the posts of other working groups, but you are only required to read and reply to posts within your working group. Each group will have a separate forum for posting.

A thread is a sequence of posts on the same topic. Each Monday, two group members will be responsible, as a pair, for starting one lesson idea thread. These always begin with a post using a specific template (see below). The post will propose a specific teaching idea the poster will be using in the week following the current one, and make some thoughtful guesses on how the students will respond to it. Group members will make suggestions for improving the activity, describe their own expectations on how students will respond, and talk about how they are addressing similar material. The following week, the posters will each separately report back to that thread on what actually happened and how they would improve the activity in the future.

Feel free to look at the course archives or our lesson notes for ideas to adapt.

Examples of teaching ideas: group work activities, individual worksheets, choice of examples for lecture, choice of quiz or midterm problems, sequence of topics to cover in a week, choice of illustration or diagram.

Online Posting Requirements. In order to keep the reading load down, posts should be no more than 5-10 lines. In order to encourage actual discussion, posts to the lesson idea threads are required on at least three different days of the week. The groups should have about ten or fewer members, so each one should only need to start a lesson idea thread about two or three times in the semester.

Videotape. You will arrange (with my assistance) for one of your classes to be videotaped. This sounds scary, but keep in mind that (1) you will not be required to share the tape with anyone, and (2) that your students can see you anyway. I will give you a short list of questions to help you reflect on your tape.

To Access the Online Course

To Access the Archives of Past Courses

Last semester's conversations will be stored in a kwiki at (Check the online syllabus to make sure this link is still correct.)

Lesson Idea Template

Before the Activity

Subject: Lesson Idea: Title
1. Math Topic:
2. Students have trouble with:
3. So I’m going to try this teaching activity:
4. Possible student reactions; how will I deal with them?

5. I'll consider this lesson a success, if:
6. One specific question for the GTA class:

After Trying It (each pair member posts separately)

1. In reality, what I did in class was:
2. The students’ reactions were:

3. In the end, I consider this lesson: (refer to 5 above)
4. To improve this activity next time I would:


Lesson Idea: MATH 70

1. Math Topic: A review of pre-algebra topics. Find out what students know and don’t know, and let students know what they are expected to know.

2. Students have trouble with: Getting started. They have difficulty dealing with the material with no context for it.  Also many have test anxiety, even if it is only diagnostic.

3. So I’m going to try the following teaching activity: Have students work in pairs to correct student errors on a set of problems that cover the topics I hope they already know. They will receive a copy of an exam that includes an incorrect student response for each problem. They are to identify the error and show how to do the problem correctly.

4. Possible student reactions; how will I deal with them?

Most students enjoy this type of trouble shooting, looking for errors in someone else’s work. I think students will be able to find most of the errors working together, but they may not be able to complete some problems correctly.

I plan to circulate as they are working, listening to their discussions and responding to their questions. I think that with help they will be able to complete these problems and by doing this have reminded themselves of what they know. I will also get an assessment of possible trouble spots. I anticipate they will have difficulty with adding and subtracting fractions and with writing an algebraic expression.

5. I'll consider this lesson a success, if: I overhear animated arguments about what the real answers are; students see that they and many of their peers need review; if students start to get comfortable working on math together; if I get some ideas for what common issues are in my class.

6. One specific question for the GTA class: What problem(s) will your students have the most difficulty with?