2021 Washington College Mathematics Conference



Friday, April 23

9:00 – 9:45 a.m. Session I
9:55 – 10:40 a.m. Session II
10:50 – 11:20 a.m. Session III
11:29 – 11:59 a.m. Session IV
12:05 – 12:25 p.m. WAMATYC Teaching Awards
12:25 – 1:05 p.m. Lunch Break / Virtual Hangouts
1:10 – 1:55 p.m. Session V
2:05 – 2:50 p.m. Session VI

How to Access the Conference

On Friday, April 23, navigate here:

To join a session, click on the session time, then click on the presentation name to see the abstract. A Zoom link will appear for each presentation about 20 minutes before the scheduled start time. Click on that Zoom link to join the session.

If you have a WAMAP account you can enroll in the Washington College Mathematics Conference course (Course ID: 14626, no Enrollment Key required) and access the non-public version of this WAMAP classroom to participate in the discussion forums.

If you experience technical difficulties during the conference, please e-mail info@wamath.org and we will do out best to assist you.


Links to individual sessions will be posted here on the morning of April 23.

Session I (9:00 – 9:45 a.m.)

History and Philosophy + Calculus = URM Retention?
Dusty Wilson • Highline College

“Where does mathematics come from? Why does it work? And how is mathematics relevant to students like me?” The speaker will share a transferable strategy for leveraging historical, philosophical and ethnomathematical passions to increase student retention in sophomore mathematics offerings. Examples and an adaptable framework will be provided.

Thinking About Assessment and Grading Differently: Standards‑Based Grading in Precalculus
Matthew Lewis & Michal Ramos • Yakima Valley College

As instructors, we have dueling roles in the lives of our students. On the one hand, we guide them through the content we teach and prepare them for the challenges they will face in the future. On the other hand, we evaluate students’ learning of the curriculum. These roles can stand in tension with one another, and for some students this tension affects how much they trust us in our role as their guide. However, what if the evaluation process, by design, could significantly reduce this stress? What if it provided a path for learning beyond the initial assessment and allowed the student to demonstrate — and receive credit for — that learning? Standards-based grading is a system that does just that. In this talk, we will describe the essential elements of standards-based grading, as well as how it can be effectively applied to the college math classroom. Quantitative and qualitative data on this approach will also be presented.

Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in Statistics Class
Facilitator: Jennifer Ward • Clark College

In this presentation I will share ways I bring social justice, equity, diversity and inclusion into my online statistics classroom. I’ll present examples of activities and resources from my statistics classes on these topics and tips for implementing activities over social issues, and reserve time at the end for others to share activities and resources as well. And/or we can brainstorm ways to make improvements to our classes to make them more equitable, diverse, inclusive and approachable to social-justice topics.

Co-requisite Math at Shoreline: Fun! Practicality. Intrigue?
Steven Bogart, Shana Calaway, Chris Hardy, Trevor Pelletier & Lauren Sandven • Shoreline Community College

We will share some of our biggest successes, biggest lessons, biggest challenges and biggest mysteries from our first several quarters of teaching co-requisite math.

John Chu • Algebra++

The design goal of Algebra++ is a series of algebra textbooks, composed entirely of spreadsheet workbooks. It weaves three threads: incorporating core principles of computer science and engineering, with whole-brain learning, tapping students’ visual, linguistic and kinesthetic processing; nine years of experience exclusively using the spreadsheet in lieu of a whiteboard or PowerPoint slides (last spring the transition to online posed no substantive change for my prior students); online teaching frequently requires use of a chat box in which any hybrid standardized notation should be usable — ALGERL© 1.0 (Algebraic Language) should pass that test. This session will showcase the non-calculational use of the spreadsheet as presentation media for general teaching.

Session II (9:55 – 10:40 a.m.)

What the h?
Will Webber • Whatcom Community College

One major source of student consternation at the start of a Calculus 1 course is the age-old question of what the H to do with the “+h.” We will show how the whole introduction to derivatives can be done without those pesky h’s.

Equity Contexts for Probability and Statistics
Carrie Muir • Whatcom Community College

This session will provide examples of equity and social-justice topics that can be used to provide context for general probability and descriptive statistics, appropriate for either a quantitative literacy or introductory statistics course.

Alternative Assessments in an Exam-Free Class
Natalya Jackson, Claire Gibbons & Pete Kaslik • Pierce College

The transition to online learning during the pandemic has provided an opportunity to examine our assessment practices. We discuss the reasons we choose to not use exams, including potential inequities and the problem of accurately measuring student learning. We follow with some examples of alternative assessment strategies that focus on measuring conceptual understanding rather than procedural memorization. Finally, we explore the potential benefits to students and educators of adopting alternative assessment models. Courses to be addressed include statistics, precalculus and calculus.

Guided Self-Placement for Math? Engaging Students in the Process
Sherry-Anne McLean • Lake Washington Institute of Technology

Since 2016, Lake Washington Institute of Technology has been using a Guided Self-Placement model for determining a student’s first math course. LWTech redesigned the student assessment process with two goals: to maximize the number of students who could be placed directly into college courses based on evidence of prior experience, and to improve the experience for students who need a placement score. Using WAMAP to create a locally designed placement experience, students now have a voice in their placement via the ability to opt up a level from their placement result. Come learn about the benefits of authentic rather than standardized placement tests, and the ways in which placement systems can motivate students and improve performance.

Using Algebra Tiles from Simplifying Expressions to Factoring
Astrida Lizins & Jenni White • CPM Educational Program

Manipulatives in a secondary math classroom? You’ll see how successful it can be. Build on students’ understanding of an area model for multiplication from lower grades by using algebra tiles to multiply polynomials and factor polynomials. Algebra tiles increase conceptual understanding that leads to proficiency once students no longer need the tiles. Additionally, the tiles provide students with a tactile engaging experience.

Session III (10:50 – 11:20 a.m.)

Holey Wholes, Batman!
Lee Singleton • Whatcom Community College

Sometimes you don’t need to think about the whole, you need the sum of the parts. Especially with integrals. Questions involving multiple choice with student explanations show that holistic thinking can sometimes get in the way of students correctly reasoning through a problem. Come find out some common integral applications where student thinking is full of wholes.

Incorporating Biology into Math Courses with the QB@CC Network
Alys Hugo • Everett Community College

Quantitative Biology at Community Colleges (QB@CC) is an NSF grant–funded network of math and biology community college faculty working to create and implement interdisciplinary OER activities that can be adopted in math and biology classrooms. Learn how you can use the activities that have already been created — or even join a small team to create a new activity.

Ownership of Learning Through Reflection: A SoTL Inquiry
Rheannin Becke • Clark College

This presentation will share the experience of a doing a SoTL inquiry as a Project Slope Fellow through AMATYC during Spring 2020, as colleges transitioned to online learning. It asked the question, “Can practicing, and reflecting on, student skills in a developmental math course be used to increase ownership of learning?” You will leave the presentation with ideas of how to incorporate reflection into your classroom.

Improving Math Outcomes in a Technical College: A Multifaceted Approach
Chris Chen Mahoney & Dion Alexander • Clover Park Technical College

Technical colleges face unique challenges when adopting the Guided Pathways approach, including high credit load, long lab hours and negative perceptions of general education courses. In order to improve access, completion and learning outcomes of math courses, Clover Park Technical College recognized the need for a multifaceted approach. The math department developed and implemented a series of strategies, such as: a directed self-placement process, contextualized technical math courses, a co-requisite teaching model, and frequent dialogues with professional-technical programs to embed math courses into program maps. The completion rate of college-level math within one year has steadily increased from 14% (2015–2016 cohort) to 30% (2018–2019 cohort).

Google Docs for Group Work
Kate Cook • Clark College

Students can work together asynchronously on a problem set through Google Docs — see one setup that has worked well and get inspired to try your own Google Doc collaboration.

To Catch a Photomather
Jesse Mickelson • Kodiak College

The recent pandemic, followed by higher education’s reaction to it, has resulted in a modern-day wild wild west of academic dishonesty. Students have the best technology paired with a tough learning environment and this combination has spawned a new challenge for professors everywhere. In this discussion, I will show examples, list commonly abused applications, and present possible ways to combat academic dishonesty in this new world of education we were all so abruptly thrust into.

Session IV (11:29 – 11:59 a.m.)

A New Model for Rat-Flea–Driven Plague Transmission
Andrew Oster • Eastern Washington University

Rats have long been thought to drive plague epidemics, specifically bubonic plague. However in a PNAS publication (2018), an alternative theory for plague transmission has been posited by Dean et al., where ectoparasites living on human hosts drive spread. This talk will present a new mathematical model (developed with Ian Lynch and Luke Mattfeld) for the spread of the plague based on rat-flea interactions with the human population and compare our results to existing models. Our results suggest that rat-flea transmission of the plague is still plausible.

Preparing Students for Calculus
Laura Schueller • SBCTC

This talk will highlight the work over the last year by faculty across the state to create a course description for a two-course sequence meant to prepare students for calculus. In addition, ongoing statewide efforts to support engaging pedagogy and equitable grading practices in these courses will be discussed.

A Holistic Approach to Co-requisite Redesign
John Toutonghi • South Seattle College

We have redesigned our developmental-through-college–level courses utilizing co-requisite models. Our approach has decreased the complexity of our overall offerings, while developing curriculum that better prepares our students for success.

Guided Self-Placement
David Lippman • Pierce College

Last spring, even before Covid hit, Pierce moved to a guided self-placement process, replacing our previous placement mechanisms. We’ll share our approach, how it meshes with our move to co-requisites, and initial impressions of how it’s going (unfortunately we don’t have any useful hard data yet).

Integrating Math and Science for the High School+ Diploma
Tyler Frank • Clark College

I will share integrated math and science activities I have been collating and developing for the High School+ program I teach in at Clark College. I will demonstrate some activities, share resources, and discuss how to use contextualization to help ABE math students.

WAMATYC Teaching Awards (12:05 – 12:25 p.m.)

Join everyone in the virtual grand ballroom for the presentation of the 2021 WAMATYC Teaching Awards! Plus a few announcements and maybe a door prize or two.

Lunch Break / Virtual Hangouts (12:25 – 1:00 p.m.)

Create or join a virtual lunch table to chat with colleagues while you eat lunch (not provided). Or get up and move around away from your computer for half and hour. Your call.

Session V (1:10 – 1:55 p.m.)

Vector Calculus Reimagined
Jeff Eldridge • Edmonds College

Pretty much every calculus book states the definitions of divergence and curl with no motivation, providing a hand-wavy notion of their geometric meaning or postponing these concepts entirely until after covering the theorems of Green, Gauss and Stokes (all of which are stated out of the blue with no inkling as to why they might be true). In this talk we will derive the formulas for divergence and curl using geometric notions of flux and circulation in a way that leads naturally to those “Big Three” theorems — and provide additional suggestions for revamping the way we teach vector calculus.

Mathematical Perseverance: Brain Teasers
Laurie James • University of Hawaii — West Oahu

Are you looking for ways to get students more engaged in math? Brain teasers promote the development of critical-thinking skills and are a powerful way to inspire mathematical discourse. The idea is to develop pedagogical content knowledge by transferring previously learned skills when trying various techniques, asking questions, making conjectures and taking risks. By incorporating brain teasers into a classroom setting, students have an opportunity to collaborate and discuss mathematical strategies. The purpose of this session is to model three hands-on brain teasers that ignite learning through productive challenges and include: (1) looking for patterns, (2) collaborating as mathematical thinkers, and (3) exploring new approaches for solving problems that correlate with MP1 & MP7. At the end of the session, you will leave with ideas and examples of how to implement brain teasers into their educational setting.

Math Placement and Legacies of Inequality
Facilitator: Robert Weston • Clark College

This session will pose the following questions to participants: What is the purpose of math placement? How can we ensure math placement is fair? How can we ensure math placement is fair, while recognizing that some students have more resources than others? What are we worried students will “get away with” in gaming math placement?

Modernizing High School Algebra II: What Does It Mean for Higher Education?
Bill Moore • SBCTC

Providing a status update on Washington Launch Years project work re-thinking high-school Algebra II and gathering feedback from participants on critical next steps and the implications for higher-education math pathways.

ctcLink Roundtable
Gabrielle McIntosh • Edmonds College

A roundtable to discuss the process of converting to ctcLink and the resulting challenges, focusing on elements of particular importance to math departments. Participants are invited to share makeshift solutions their colleges have devised.

Session VI (2:05 – 2:50 p.m.)

Fitting Parameters to Data from COVID-19 in Calculus I–IV
Yves Nievergelt • Eastern Washington University

“Fitting parameters” means finding parameters that minimize a function. For instance, the mean of numbers minimizes a sum of squared differences. The slope and intercept of a line also minimize a sum of squared differences. So do parameters of models with Susceptible, Ill and Removed subjects. The mathematics is exactly the same for models from chemistry and the environment, as well as the design of aircraft, automobiles, submarines and racing yachts. Data from COVID-19 just seem to grab students’ attention better than chemistry. Hopefully the talk will leave everyone with something for their students to work on.

Archimedean Spirals and Rational Approximation
Eric Mack • North Idaho College

Born out of the ancient and medieval question of how to match a stack of perfect fifths (an = 1.5n) against a stack of perfect octaves (bn = 2n), we’ll explore the phenomena of emergent spiral behaviors in Christmas lights wrapped tightly around different-diameter trees, then flatten this helix into an Archimedean spiral for a 2D view, before finally relating the phenomena to continued fractions and rational approximation. Geogebra will be used for a visual aid.

Writing-Intensive Precalculus
Facilitator: Jessica Hoppe • Spokane Falls Community College

Writing-intensive courses are recognized as a high-impact instructional practice by the Association of American Colleges and Universities. In this session, participants will engage in informal idea-sharing regarding writing-to-learn interventions in STEM-pathway mathematics courses. The presenter will begin by sharing some initial writing-to-learn activities she developed for a writing-intensive precalculus course. Participant input will be sought regarding ways to thoughtfully incorporate writing-to-learn activities in mathematics.

Culturally Responsive Teaching Strategies
Pam Chavez, Joel Miller & Ashley Boyd • CPM Educational Program

Participants will have an opportunity to learn as a mathematician in an equitable environment. Learners thrive through mathematics that is meaningful, relevant, and accessible in a safe space. This session will provide you with an opportunity to engage in productive struggle, experience mathematics, and reflect on the strategies used to support you as a learner.

Co-requisite Mathematics
Facilitator: Laura Schueller • SBCTC
Panelists: Cody Fouts • Pierce College | Julianne Sachs • Walla Walla Community College | Barbara Hunter • Highline College

A roundtable with college faculty who are in the process of developing, implementing and scaling mathematics co-requisite courses.

Mathematical Magic for All Students
Laurie James • University of Hawaii — West Oahu

Have you ever been fascinated by card tricks or illusions? Many math concepts, such as patterns and algebra, can be used when exploring magic using a deck of cards. In this session, you will practice and learn the mathematical secrets to simple card tricks. As mathematical patterns emerge from one trick to the next, you will analyze possible outcomes and create a compelling need to know all the secrets. The purpose is to inspire mathematical thinking and discourse while making math fun. You will leave understanding mathematical card tricks that shift the focus in the classroom from direct instruction to a supportive learning environment through active participation and meaningful connections to mathematical patterns. You will experience yourself becoming a magician and will be able to impress your students, family and friends.