Archives For Theron Hitchman

A couple of days ago, Peter Krautzberger sent me an email asking if I was interested in becoming an editor for According to’s about page:

From research to recreational, from teaching to technology, from visual to virtual, hundreds of blogs and sites regularly write about mathematics in all its facets. For the longest time, there was no good way for readers to find the authors they enjoy and for authors to be found. We want to change that. We have collected over 700 blogs and other news sources in one place, and invite you to submit even more! Our goal is to be the best place to discover mathematical writing on the web. is run by Samuel Coskey, Frederik von Heymann, and Peter. Felix Breuer also had a hand in the site’s creation. The current editors are Peter Honner, Fawn Nguyen, and Shecky Riemann.

Lately, I’ve been feeling stretched a bit thin, so I told Peter that I needed to think about it before deciding. I’ve been trying to be careful about the new projects I take on so that I don’t get in over my head. But…then I remembered the talk that Joe Gallian gave at the conclusion of my first Project NExT workshop in 2008. The theme of Joe’s talk (which he gives every year for Project NExT) is “just say yes.” His thesis is that by saying “yes” we open doors to new opportunities and by saying “no” we close ourselves off to what might have been. Okay, I’m sure Joe would admit that we shouldn’t say “yes” to everything, but I believe he would say that most of us say “no” too often.

I took Joe’s talk pretty seriously my first few years post PhD and I think it has worked out pretty darn well for me. There have been numerous times I thought that I should say “no” but followed Joe’s advice instead. Most of the time it has worked out for the best. A good example is when Ivars Peterson asked Angie Hodge and I to start blogging for the MAA. Actually, let me back up a notch. First, Nathan Carter suggested that I apply for the editor position at Math Horizons. I implemented Joe’s philosophy and talked Angie into applying with me as co-editors. Alas, we were not chosen and instead the committee selected the most awesome Dave Richeson. However, as a result of our application, Ivars approached Angie and I about starting up Math Ed Matters. Around this time, I was beginning a new position at Northern Arizona University and I was concerned that my tenure committee wouldn’t value this sort of work. I dragged my feet for a couple months, but eventually Joe’s voice in my head won out. Angie and I have only been blogging for a few months, but we certainly made the right decision. Lots of new opportunities have presented themselves as a result of the blog. I could go on and on about similar choices.

Okay, by now you’ve already guessed that I agreed to Peter’s offer. So, what does being an editor entail? I already keep up with quite a few math-related blogs, but now I just need to “star” the ones on that I find the most interesting/enjoyable/useful/compelling and leave a brief comment about them. Doesn’t sound too bad. Of course, to be fair I should start reading a few more of the blogs that pass through.

Yesterday was my first day on the job and I already selected two recent blog posts for Editors’ Picks:

  1. Name 5 top journals you read… by Peter Krautzberger
  2. A Problem with Assessment by TJ Hitchman

I’m looking forward to reading more excellent blog posts and seeing if Joe is right again.

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On Saturday, May 5, 2013, I was joined by TJ Hitchman (University of Northern Iowa) for the Michigan Project NExT Panel Discussion on Teaching Strategies for Improving Student Learning, which was part of the 2013 Spring MAA Michigan Section Meeting at Lake Superior State University. The title of the session was “Teaching Strategies for Improving Student Learning” and was organized by Robert Talbert (Grand Valley State University). The dynamic looking guy in the photo above is TJ.

Here is the abstract for the session.

Are you interested in helping your students learn mathematics more effectively? Are you thinking about branching out in the way you teach your courses? If so, you should attend this panel discussion featuring short talks from leaders in higher education in employing innovative and effective instructional strategies in their mathematics classes. After speaking, our panelists will lead breakout discussions in small groups to answer questions and share advice about effective instructional strategies for college mathematics. Panelists will include Dana Ernst (Northern Arizona University) and Theron Hitchman (University of Northern Iowa), both noted for their effective use of the flipped classroom and inquiry-based learning.

Sweet, I guess running my mouth often enough about inquiry-based learning (IBL) gets me “noted.”

Each of TJ and I took about 10-15 minutes to discuss our respective topics and then we took the remaining time to chat and brainstorm as a group. The focus of my portion of the panel was on “Inquiry-Based Learning: What, Why, and How?” My talk was a variation on several similar talks that I’ve given over the past year. For TJ’s portion, he discussed his Big “Unteaching” Experiment that he implemented in his Spring 2013 differential geometry course.

Here are the slides for my portion of the panel.

Despite low attendance at the panel, I think it went well. Thanks to Robert for inviting TJ and me!

Several weeks ago I was asked to take part in the Project NExT Alternative Assessment Techniques panel discussion at the 2013 Joint Mathematics Meetings, which recently took place in San Diego, CA. I was extremely honored to be considered for the panel, but at the time I was not planning on attending the JMM, so I declined the invitation. A couple weeks later, it turned out that I was going to make it to the JMM after all. At about 11PM the night before I was going to fly to San Diego, I received an email from the organizers of the panel discussion indicating that one of the panelists was unable to make it and that they heard was going to be there. They asked if I could fill in at the last minute and I accepted.

Here is the abstract for the panel.

Since classroom assessment is used to determine a student’s level of mastery, how can we vary our methods of assessment to accurately reflect the diversity of ways that students learn and understand the material? Traditional methods of assessment, such as exams, quizzes, and homework, may not accurately and robustly measure some students’ understanding. In this panel, we will propose alternative methods and discuss the following questions:
– What assessments exist besides the traditional ones and how can I use them for my course?
– How can I determine the validity of an alternative assessment?
– How can I develop my own alternative assessments?
– How can alternative assessments help me evaluate the effectiveness of a non-traditional classroom?

It is worth pointing out that I’m not an assessment expert by any stretch of the imagination. Also, given that I had less than 48 hours to prepare amidst a pretty full schedule, I didn’t have a lot of time to come up with something new and creative for my talk. Inquiry-based learning (IBL) is one of my passions and I’ve given quite a few IBL-related talks in the past few months, so I decided to “twist” the ideas from some of my recent talks into a talk about assessment. In my talk, I propose implementing IBL not only as a pedagogical approach but also as an assessment strategy. This isn’t really a stretch since in my view, an effective IBL class is all assessment, all the time.

My fellow panelists included Theron Hitchman (University of Northern Iowa), Bonnie Gold (Monmouth University), and Victor Odafe (Bowling Green State University). Theron gave a talk on using Standards Based Assessment (you can find his slides here), Bonnie spoke on a variety of summative assessment techniques, and Victor shared his experience with oral assessment. It turns out that the person that I was filling for is mathematics education superstar Jo Boaler. Me filling in for her is ridiculous.

Here are the slides for my portion of the panel.

Thanks to the organizers of the panel (Cassie Williams (James Madison University), Jane Butterfield (University of Minnesota), John Peter (Utica College), and Robert Campbell (College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University)) for providing me with the opportunity to speak on the panel.