A Spreadsheet Learning Environment (SLE) For Business MathThe Oswego Symposium on Learning and Teaching: A Celebration of Meaningful Learning Jack NarayanBob SchellSUNY Oswego
Our ChallengeMany College Students lack Quantitative Literacy (QL)Dealing with Math Anxious StudentsSatisfying Client departments
Math 208 TopicsThis is required course developed jointly by the School of Business and the Math Department. Differential CalculusMatrix Algebra and Linear ProgrammingMathematics of Finance
Math 208 StudentsMany students put off taking this course until their junior and senior yearWeak in algebra and computational skillsDont like to writeDont read the textbookLow attendanceStudents want good grades
Course Objectives include:Cognitive gains and problems solving skillsGains in self-efficacyHigh levels of student engagementParticipation in collaborative learningWrite Math Explanations in Text Boxes in Excel
Questions to Guide the Development of the SLEHow can we teach this course to be meaningful to the students?How to get around the poor algebraic skills?Can we get students to use the mathematics in other out of class situations?Can technology be used effectively?
StrategiesJust in time Algebra. Students forgetFocus on realistic problemsAppropriate use of technologyInterpret the mathematical results and communicate the ideas to othersWork in pairs or small groups.
Student EngagementRequire students to have a laptopLearn Excel. Use it as an educational Microworld to do mathematics.Write up explanations in a text boxUse class management software WebAssign
Excel Assignment on WebAssign
Professors TasksSubmit HW electronically every weekGrade electronic submissions manually or by WebAssignReturn grades next class periodOffer extra creditMake attendance 10 % of the grade
WebAssignReadily availableEasy to useIncreases efficiencyMaintains contact with individual students
Excel Assignment on WebAssign
Alternative ApproachDoes the data in this table reflect linear (quadratic, polynomial, exponential, logarithmic) growth?How would you model this data? Write a paragraph describing the process.Can you use your model to predict future values?
Students learn:To enter functions in a spread sheetAbout domain (input) and range (output)Compute output values for various input valuesTo use goal seek to find input values corresponding to output valuesTo plot graphs of functions
Students learn about :Max (Min) of f(x), intervals on which f(x) is increasing (decreasing), concavity, point of inflection;Absolute Max (Min) Fitting functions to real dataPredictions
Excel helps with Problematic Topics Profit = Revenue Cost. Factoring and expanding Algebraic expressionsDifference QuotientArithmetic Calculations
Class at work
What do they learn?They achieve course objectives as measured with traditional examinations.They increase their mathematical self-efficacy.The are collaborative learners.The are engaged in the classroom learning experience.
Self-efficacyMore than 75% of students said that they had gained quite a bit or very much from their experience:Q1g Increasing my ability to code information into a spreadsheet.Q1i Increasing my ability to use a laptop computer.Q1h Increasing my ability to interpret graphical information.Q1c Increasing my ability to understand the ideas of business mathematics.
EngagementMore than 50% of students said that they had engaged in these activities often or very often:Q2f Received prompt feedback from you instructor on your academic performance, written or oral.Q2d Worked with other students on assignments outside of class.Q2c Worked harder than you though you could to meet the instructor's expectations.Q2g Discussed ideas from your assignments or class outside of class (students, faculty, coworkers, others).
Collaborative learning More that 75% of students agreed or strongly agreed:Q3b Using spreadsheets made it easier to understand the ideas of business mathematics.Q3g I felt comfortable contacting the instructor in this course whenever I wished to so.Q3e I would recommend this course, taught with spreadsheets, to other students.Q3a This was an interesting math course.
Collaborative learningMore that 75% of students agreed or strongly agreed:Q3f The use of WebAssign facilitated my communication with the professor and increased my efficiency.Q3h I felt that what I learned in this course was a partnership with the instructor.Q3i I worked cooperatively with the other members of my group so that all of us stood a chance of getting a good grade in this course.
Students Comments I feel that I can add value to any situation that may call on my mathematical skills as a result of this new approach to calculus for business. I have procrastinated taking this class, for fear of the ability to learn practical skills and the ability to learn and apply my experience. I am more confident in my skills as a business professional.
ConclusionMany Students are better at applying College Algebra after this classMost of them learn enough about Excel to do the mathematics they need in their areas of concentration.They saw value in what they did and worked hard in the course