Sunday, October 07, 2012

Doing for math what I want to do for genetics

Keith Devlin is teaching a Coursera course titled Introduction to Mathematical Thinking, and he's blogging about the experience here.

In his latest post he discusses the relationship between what his course aims to teach and what is usually taught in post-secondary mathematics courses.  To paraphrase slightly, he contrasts the formalism of pure mathematics ("chess on steroids") with the role that abstract, pure reasoning plays in dealing with the more messy issues of the real world.  Few students can really appreciate the former, but they all can benefit from the latter, so that's what his course teaches.

This is a lot like what I hope to do with genetics, since I want to replace much of the formalism of Mendelian analysis with reasoning how genetic effects play out in the world our students live in.

He's planning to use calibrated peer review for his final exam.  I'll be very interested to see how this works in Coursera because I want to make extensive use of it in Useful Genetics.  I've used the standard version of CPR in my BIOL 234 genetics course (see here and here), but Coursera describes their version as 'beta' so I don't know how good or solid it is.


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