598 – Upcoming talk: Laurie Cavey

December 4, 2009

Laurie Cavey, Wed. December 9, 2:40-3:30 pm, MG 120.

Developing Students’ Understanding of Mathematical Definitions: Why Bother?

Definitions are a fundamental part of doing mathematics, yet studies indicate that many students struggle to learn and apply definitions. In fact, many instructors wonder (myself included) how students can misapply definitions that are so clearly stated. Part of the issue is that a student’s previous mathematical experiences influence how she thinks, even when encountering a new idea that is seemingly unrelated. Not knowing what these experiences might entail, it can be difficult to know how to help students develop a better understanding of a particular definition. So, why bother? I will provide a brief overview of the research in this area including an instructional strategy (student generated examples) that may influence the way we think about developing students’ understanding of definitions.