J. McGivney-Burelle, R. J. McGivney

University of Hartford (UNITED STATES)
At the University of Hartford the liberal arts mathematics course, Contemporary Mathematics (M116), enrolls over 500 students annually. True to its name, M116 covers mathematics discovered within the relatively recent past including Monte Carlo simulation, recurrence relations, voting methods, and graph theory. The course abounds in interesting applications. Recently, we have moved the lecture notes into PowerPoint which enables us to access applets and websites that bring illuminating demonstrations, graphics, and articles directly into a class presentation

M116 draws students from music, art, education and the liberal arts and sciences. Students are generally evenly distributed from freshman through senior years. Many of those in the latter group have postponed taking a math course until the bitter end. It can be a challenging course to teach because of the disparate population and the fact that most of these students have had unsuccessful and mildly traumatic careers in mathematics. Many of these students are inherently bright, but lack the motivational and confidence levels necessary to succeed in mathematics. Consequently, they are reluctant to ask questions in class because of past failure. In turn this makes it difficult for faculty members to set a proper pace for the class and gauge which students need help before an exam is given.

In response to this we have decided to incorporate the Turning Point classroom voting system in M116. Turning Point, which operates seamlessly with PowerPoint, allows us to prepare periodic questions that are part of the presentation; create new slides on the fly when it appears that some topic is not clearly understood; and monitor students’ responses (anonymously) on the projection screen in a variety of formats including line graphs, bar charts, pie charts, and tables.

In this paper we will discuss our trials and tribulations of using clickers in the liberal arts mathematics classroom including a discussion of the logistics involved and effective pedagogical strategies.