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Student Writing in the Quantitative Disciplines: A Guide for College Faculty

ISBN: 978-0-470-95212-2
192 pages
March 2012, Jossey-Bass
Student Writing in the Quantitative Disciplines: A Guide for College Faculty (0470952121) cover image


Designing interesting problems and writing assignments is one of the chief tasks of all teachers, but it can be especially challenging to translate and apply learning theory, good teaching techniques, and writing assignments into STEM and other quantitative disciplines. Student Writing in the Quantitative Disciplines offers instructors in math-based disciplines meaningful approaches to making their coursework richer and more relevant for their students, as well as satisfying institutional imperatives for writing curricula. This important resource provides instructors with the hands-on skills needed to guide their students in writing well in quantitative courses at all levels of the college curriculum and to promote students' general cognitive and intellectual growth.

Comprehensive in scope, the book includes:

  • Ideas for using writing as a means of learning mathematical concepts

  • Illustrative examples of effective writing activities and assignments in a number of different genres

  • Assessment criteria and effective strategies for responding to students' writing

  • Examples of ways to help students engage in peer review, revision, and resubmission of their written work

"Those of us who spend our lives urging faculty in all disciplines to integrate more writing into their courses have wished for the day when someone like Patrick Bahls would step forward with a book like this one."—Chris M. Anson, University Distinguished Professor and director, Campus Writing and Speaking Program, North Carolina State University

"Written by a mathematician, this readable, theoretically sound book describes practical strategies for teachers in the quantitative sciences to assign and respond to students' writing. It also describes numerous approaches to writing that engage students in disciplinary learning, collaborative discovery, and effective communication."—Art Young, Campbell Professor of English emeritus, Clemson University

"Loaded with practical advice, this timely, important, and engaging book will be an invaluable resource for instructors wishing to bring the benefits of writing-to-learn to the quantitative disciplines. As a mathematician thoroughly grounded in writing-across-the-curriculum scholarship, Bahls brings humor, classroom experience, and pedagogical savvy to a mission he clearly loves—improving the quality of student learning in math and science."—John C. Bean, professor, Seattle University, and author, Engaging Ideas

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Table of Contents

Preface ix

Acknowledgments xxiii

About the Author xxv

ONE Understanding the Role of Writing 1

Basic Definitions 2

A Brief History of Writing Across the Curriculum 3

Writing in the Disciplines and Writing-to-Learn in Quantitative Fields 6

Challenges to Implementing WAC in Quantitative Fields 11

Readings and Resources 18

TWO Writing as a Process 21

The Process at Work in a Mathematical Proof 22

The Writing Process 24

Structuring Writing Assignments 36

Sequencing Assignments Throughout a Course 42

Sequencing Writing from Course to Course 43

THREE Assessing and Responding to Student Writing 47

Recognizing Good Writing 49

Giving Guidance in Revision 53

Peer Review 63

FOUR Low-Stakes Writing and Writing-to-Learn 75

Examples of Low-Stakes Writing Activities 77

Notes on Responding to Low-Stakes Writing 94

Readings and Resources 96

F I V E Formal Writing Projects 97

Writing on Writing 98

Learning Logs 99

Student-Authored Exam Questions 101

“Great Debates” 105

Writing for Lay Audiences 108

Student-Authored Textbooks 110

Grant Writing 113

Wikis and Other Websites 117

Creative Writing Projects 119

A Word on Technical Typesetting 127

S I X Shaping the Future of Writing in the Quantitative Disciplines 129

Pushing Writing Forward 130

Teachers, Scholars, Champions 137

Recommended Reading and Resources 145

References 151

Index 159

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Author Information

Patrick Bahls is an associate professor of mathematics at the University of North Carolina, Asheville, where he also performs research in math and writing and has helped to lead his campus's writing intensive program.

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“I highly recommend reading [this book] if you have been wanting to introduce writing to your quantitative courses or improve what you have been implementing…. I know that I’ll refer to it often, making it a great reference book. And hopefully my students will be more likely to come out of my courses saying, ‘I now realize that writing is an important part of being a great physicist!’”—Heather M. Whitney, The Chronicle of Higher Education
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Press Release

April 10, 2012
Student Writing in the Quantitative Disciplines: A Guide for College Faculty

Student Writing in the Quantitative Disciplines: A Guide for College Faculty

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - More and more colleges and universities are focusing their efforts on developing writing-centered and writing-intensive courses in all disciplines, including the quantitative disciplines. These courses demand that the instructor have substantial knowledge of writing instruction, and given the existing gaps in the literature, it is often difficult for faculty in the quantitative disciplines to find faculty development opportunities related to writing. Likewise, more and more faculty in quantitative disciplines are searching for ways to make their coursework richer and more relevant for their students.

Student Writing in the Quantitative Disciplines introduces the often-overlooked quantitative fields to the ideas of writing-to-learn (WTL) and writing in the disciplines (WID), guides readers through the pedagogy of writing in the quantitative disciplines, and is theoretically grounded means by which writing can be used to help undergraduate students to understand mathematical concepts.

Author Patrick Bahls answers the question: What does writing in math look like?

He equips instructors with the practical skills necessary to guide their students in writing well in quantitative courses at all levels of the college curriculum and addresses various genres of mathematical writing.  Also, the book provides the criteria by which the quality of writing in each can be assessed.

Students and teachers in the quantitative disciplines can effectively make use of writing as a means to learn mathematical concepts and Student Writing in the Quantitative Disciplines helps to make that happen.  The book is a must read for all those who want to help students to master mathematical ideas through writing.



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