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College Major: A Career Defining Decision?

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Over 20 million freshmen matriculate into college each year and the most common question we ask them is: Do you know what you’re going to major in?  Colleges traditionally require students to declare their major during the second year and some colleges are requiring high school applicants to select a major, thus 18-20 year-olds make a decision that defines their college degree.  But does this decision define a career?

To what extent do college graduates work in fields unrelated to their college degree?  Luckily the National Survey of College Graduates asks respondents this question directly.  Of college graduates, 54% report that their highest degree field of study is closely related to their job.  Meanwhile, 25% report that their degree field is somewhat related to their job and 20% report that their field of study is not related to their current job.  Demographically, more women than men report that their field of study is closely related to their job (56.3% and 52.5%, respectively).

This data is from the 2013 version of the survey, and the answer to the question “To what extent was your work on your principal job… related to your highest degree?” has remained relatively constant (see figure 1).

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While this data only consists of responses from those who are employed (otherwise there is nothing to match), there may be individuals unemployed because of their college major choice.

Ultimately, many choose careers that do not match our formal education and learn on-the-job.  Nothing says that salary or happiness is based solely on this match, so the 20% of individuals who report that their field of study is not related to their current job may be doing just fine!

(note: this is the first of three posts relating college majors and careers.)
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NCTM Presentation: Assessing Conceptual Understanding

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Below are resources related to NCTM Presentation: Assessing Conceptual Understanding (# 457; room 258B, BCEC)

Slides: NCTM Assessing Conceptual Understanding

Editable .docx: Conceptual Questions NCTM

NCTM Presentation: Integrating Authentic Economics Applications into the Math Classroom

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These are the resources that will be presented on Saturday at 11:00 (room 108 in BCEC).

Handout: Economic Applications NCTM

Slides: NCTM economic applications

Extra Resources:

Create a business

demand

Making Airplanes

Creating a projectile motion still

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As a class project, a student wanted to calculate the velocity of a marker throwmarker being thrown into the trash.  He calculated the time it took the marker to hit the trash after he released the marker and the distance to the trash.  This is the horizontal average velocity, so I asked him to go further.  The image below is a projectile motion still and a quick desmos graph of a parabola of best fit.  Now he has an equation for height… his task is to determine the vertical velocity.

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Below is a link to a video of how I created this image.

http://youtu.be/eXJ-nc2AJb4

What Is My Main Goal of My Calculus Course

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I recently ran into a student that I taught during my first year of teaching (ten years ago) what he remembered from my Calculus course. He remembered the word derivative and that we had to do problem sets and if he did well on those he would do well on the tests. But he didn’t really remember any “Calculus”. He works in marketing and- I assume- does not need to use any of the rules, theorems, or formulas particular to Calculus. But, I bet he has a better appreciation of the concept of change because of my course, even though he might not attribute it to my course; at least I hope he does.

So, What do I want my students to remember five or ten years after they leave my course? Really the question I am asking is “What is my main goal in my calculus course?”

For me, the answer is change. Algebra 2 and PreCalculus are about functions and points on a graph (I don’t love that description, but its serves my purpose), while Calculus is about the change at those points. Imagine Algebra 2 is about the point, and Calculus is about the slope at that point. So, as we returned from Spring Break- and were technically in the middle of our unit on the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus- I tried to gauge what my students remembered about Calculus after ten days away…

They looked in their notes and said things like chain rule, fundamental theorem of calculus, derivatives, and change. They also have every standard example in their notes (think volume of a balloon for related rates) that they can use in future Calculus courses as a resource (I have anecdotal evidence that they refer to these notes in college), but as I tried to dig deeper into what this course engrained in them, I was not sure that more than a few understood what I meant by change.

SO, I talked to a physics teacher who was excited to collaborate. I borrowed some “logger pros” and Vernier sensors to begin a two-day task/project/lab/experiment. Here it is:

The outcome of this “task” will be to:

  • describe a movement in words
  • By hand, graph:
    • distance vs. time graph of the movement
    • velocity vs. time graph of the movement
    • acceleration vs. time graph of the movement
  • demonstrate the movement
  • use the “logger sensors” to create an actual capture of the movement, including distance, velocity, and acceleration graphs
  • verify that the description, movement, and graphs all correspond
  • determine a means to present this information

We are going to spend two days on this task, then return to our normal progression of finding area between two curves. But for these two days we’re going to try to see if we can reinforce what I believe to be the central theme to Calculus.

Maybe in ten years, they’ll remember this.

Hybrid Microeconomics Part 2 of 3: Early Reflections

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Five week into my hybrid AP Microeconomics course, we had our first major test. Having only met in person four times, I was anxious to see the results. The test was marginally more difficult than the same one given to my “face-to-face” AP Microeconomics course this fall. The results were better than my students from the fall!

My first major realization is that the students are very much actively engaged with the material; there are readings, workbook activities, videos, and online quizzes. In a traditional class, students may have been able to not thoroughly complete their reading or problems, then coast through a 40-minute class. During our in-person sessions, the students have more thoughtful questions because they have confronted the material on their own; they make connections, ask insightful questions, and anticipate concepts.

I used a LMS (Canvas) in the fall with my face-to-face course, but students rarely used the resources- Canvas tracks student hours logged on and it was minimal in the fall. This spring, the online resources have been more robust and students need to take online quizzes, so inevitably the usage will be more, but its not that I notice increased usage, I notice increased engagement. An example is an discussion board thread that was complete (students were asked to define some vocab words and did), then a week later I noticed that it was highlighted as “unread.” When I looked, a handful of students continued the conversation. They were asking about subtleties from the text and how some definitions seeming contradicted each other. Granted this was a subset of the class, but these five students were going beyondFeatured image
their required engagement with the concepts and really wrestling with ideas that can be difficult and deepening their understanding by explaining examples and different ways of thinking about a problem or idea.

So the quantifiable results are at minimum on par (probably better, but small sample size), but the student engagement with Microeconomics is clearly through the roof. These students are becoming active learners; a skill as useful as the economics they are learning.

Hybrid Microeconomics Part 1 of 3: About the Course

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I am teaching a hybrid AP Microeconomics course this spring.  This is the first of three posts describing my experience teaching this course.  The first is the basics about the course.  Attached is a FAQ that I sent to students before the class began.

About the Course: AP Microeconomics

  • This is a one-semester course.
  • It is a hybrid course where students meet once every six school days and complete online readings, activities, and assessments.
  • The goal was to add the opportunity for students to fit the course into their schedule and to add the flexibility to students’ workload.
  • Students are expected to complete about an hour’s worth of work each day (equivalent of 40 minute class plus 20 minute homework).

Resources

  • Students use the Learning Management System Canvas.
  • Students read from Mankiw’s Principles of Economics textbook.
  • Students complete workbook activities from Stone’s AP Microeconomics Resource Manual.

Course Meetings

  • Students meet in small groups in occasionally non-traditional locations (ie. library or breakout room)
  • The schedule was challenging to coordinate everyone’s availability, given that we did not have a dedicated meeting time.

Assignments

  • There are five major resources that we use:
    • Videos (short bursts of information)
    • Textbook (longer and more theoretical)
    • Workbook & Handouts (focusing on mechanics)
    • Class (connecting dots and filling in the blanks)
    • Discussion Board (with threaded answers to questions, both conceptual and vocabulary)

Assessments

  • Students take online quizzes to test for basic comprehension and completion
  • Students take in-person quizzes and tests by scheduling a convenient time.