I'm smack-dab in the middle of the freest time of year for me, that three- our four-week-long end of May, during which time I'm generally "relaxing" after a successful semester, working like mad to take care of the various reports due from me in the next few weeks, and busily prepping for the REU that starts two weeks from tomorrow.
This year my wife and I were able to get away for our first "real vacation" (defined as "a trip involving neither work nor family visits") in several years, a five-day cruise to the Bahamas. Of course, being who I am I managed to make the most of it by bringing along some highly inappropriate pleasure reading, the thirtieth anniversary edition of Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the oppressed, the central text for the summer Learning Circle I'm taking part in in June and July. (The only reading material I saw which may have vied with it for the "Most Ironical Reading on a Cruise Ship" award was one woman's copy of Orwell's 1984; I think if she'd have been reading Huxley instead, she might have had me beat.)
I'll likely have more to say in the coming weeks about Freire's philosophy as it applies to math education at the university level, but I wanted to put forward in this post an idea for a new ongoing writing project I hope to implement in at least one of the two classes I'm organizing in the fall (Precalculus and Abstract Algrebra I).
Oddly enough, I got the idea from the cruise company. Every evening around dinner time we were treated to a delightful turn-down service, featuring complimentary mints, expertly folded towel animals, viz.:
and a copy of the Fun Times, the cruise ship's guide to all of organized activities that would be going on on the ship the next day. It was little more than a newsletter, three or four pages in length, just the sort of periodical I think a class (or two) full of students, working together, could crank out at least once a week, if properly prepared to do so.
So here's the idea: ask students to put together an ongoing "newsletter" for their class, The Algebra Times, or The Precalc Picayune, if you will. Its content would be flexible, and what went into it from week to week would be left to the discretion of the students (I'd want to have as little to do with its creation as possible). Perhaps, for example, the precalculus newsletter could include
- study tips,
- hints for tricky homework problems,
- advertising for study groups,
- applications of course material to areas outside of class,
- games and puzzles,
- "letters to the editor,"
- recommendations for class activities,
- recaps of recent class activities,
- personal reflections on math in general,
How's this sound? Colleagues: have you tried something like this before? Students: would this be something you'd be all upon?