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Educational Solutions blog

Linear algebra,classroom response systems, and questions about questions

I recently dived into studying linear algebra, and was intrigued to read Robert Talbert’s post about the use of peer instruction in linear algebra classes. Talbert says that “Linear algebra is loaded with big ideas that all connect around a central question (whether or not a matrix is invertible). The computation is not the hard part of linear algebra — it’s forging a real understanding of the ideas and concepts in the subject and coming to terms with how they relate.” All of which makes linear algebra a perfect candidate for peer instruction, if your classroom response system allows answers other than the multiple choice questions. Talbert used the Learning Catalytics system developed by Eric Mazur, the father of peer instruction. Learning Catalytics is a web-based system that allows, among other things, students to submit drawings, click on and/or draw on pictures, and select multiple correct answers to a question. It was very popular with the students. He didn’t draw any conclusions about how the classroom response system improved student learning, if it did at all. But, he poses an interesting question at the end of the post. “One of the things I’m especially interested in seeing is whether questions that admit more constructive input on a question correlate with improved student learning compared to more static multiple choice questions on the same concept.” Sounds like a good candidate for a future research study.

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