19 - A Different Sort of Calculus Debate pp. 139-150By Vicky Williams Klima
Mathematical Time Capsules
Online ISBN: 9780883859841
Chapter DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5948/UPO9780883859841.020
As in most subjects, the historical significance credited to certain events in the development of calculus depends significantly on the historian giving the account. While thinking about how I should interpret selected historical events when presenting them to my first semester calculus classes, I realized that such a decision was unnecessary; my students could determine the appropriate interpretation for themselves through in-class debates. The debate project focuses on two topics: Fermat's method of maxima and minima and Barrow's theorem.
Debates allow students to actively participate in the learning process. David Royse  proposes that student learning is at its best when the students have an opportunity to actively engage in an assignment that builds on prior knowledge. The debate assignment was designed to do just that — build upon and shore up the students' understanding of the key concepts of first semester calculus. Bonwell and Eison  explain that students are actively learning when they are asked not just to listen, but also to analyze, to synthesize, and to evaluate through active engagement. The debate project requires students to create and analyze arguments, and to actively present these arguments during an in-class debate. As the debate assignment progresses, students begin to take ownership of their arguments and are concerned that they present these arguments well, spending a surprising amount of time in preparation for the debates. During their preparation for and participation in the debates, the students gain a better understanding of some of the fundamental aspects of their beginning calculus course and thus are more likely to remember these fundamental ideas.
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