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When I was preparing my talk for the Legacy of R.L. Moore Conference a couple weeks ago, I reread the student evaluations for my introduction to proof course from Spring 2013. I was really pleased with all the comments, but two of them stood out because they capture the essence of what I want an inquiry-based learning (IBL) experience to be.

Here’s the first comment.

[…] he has found the perfect way to teach this course. […] The way Professor Ernst had us struggle through homework and then come together as a group and discuss the topics was very beneficial. I personally struggled through most of the material and when I finally got to the right concept I felt like I fully understood it because I personally came to that conclusion. Also, when I didn’t fully understand a topic, coming together and discussing it connected all the gaps I was missing. […] As a future educator, I would love to mimic his style of teaching so I can share with my students the same satisfaction that I got out of this style of teaching.

I stripped out a couple complimentary sentences that addressed me rather than the course. Of course, I’m thrilled about this student’s desire to incorporate IBL in their future teaching, but what I really appreciate about this comment is how the student reflects on both his/her independence and collaboration.

Here is the second, very short comment.

Try, fail, understand, win.

Four words of awesomeness. I couldn’t hope for more. This second comment inspired a recent post that Angie Hodge and I recently wrote for Math Ed Matters.


Dana C. Ernst

Mathematics & Teaching

  Northern Arizona University
  Flagstaff, AZ
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Current Courses

  MAT 320: Foundations of Math
  MAT 431: Intro to Analysis
  MAT 511: Abstract Algebra I

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Land Acknowledgement

  Flagstaff and NAU sit at the base of the San Francisco Peaks, on homelands sacred to Native Americans throughout the region. The Peaks, which includes Humphreys Peak (12,633 feet), the highest point in Arizona, have religious significance to several Native American tribes. In particular, the Peaks form the Diné (Navajo) sacred mountain of the west, called Dook'o'oosłííd, which means "the summit that never melts". The Hopi name for the Peaks is Nuva'tukya'ovi, which translates to "place-of-snow-on-the-very-top". The land in the the area surrounding Flagstaff is the ancestral homeland of the Hopi, Ndee/Nnēē (Western Apache), Yavapai, A:shiwi (Zuni Pueblo), and Diné (Navajo). We honor their past, present, and future generations, who have lived here for millennia and will forever call this place home.