My colleague Mike Weimerskirch at the University of Minnesota has set up a nice site of precalculus resources. It’s got videos, slides, and transcripts of short lectures on a variety of precalc topics, as well as links to appropriate sections of three free online textbooks. If you’re a current teacher, this is a great resource for students who might need review of trig, or summation notation, or sequences and series. The site also includes a number of in-class activities that go with the lectures.
Mike worked hard to make this precalculus class a more interactive class in person, shifting a lot of the lecture outside of class time in order to increase in-class work time. Students in college precalculus are often rather vulnerable to being derailed; they’ve often had trouble with math in the past and the learning strategies they have are often not great for the math they are facing. Shifting activities into class time allows teachers to model the math learning and experimentation process for students and help them learn new ways to learn math. It also helps keep them awake! I read a thought-provoking blog post this week about a veteran teacher who shadowed two of her high school students for two days, and was astounded at all the time we spend asking students to sit quietly and absorb without contributing. That prompts its own question: to what extent can online learning technologies create a space where students truly participate and feel that their presence is relevant to learning?