, Volume 46, Issue 4, pp 589–601 | Cite as

Teaching methods comparison in a large calculus class

  • Warren CodeEmail author
  • Costanza Piccolo
  • David Kohler
  • Mark MacLean
Original Article


We report findings from a classroom experiment in which each of two sections of the same Calculus 1 course at a North American research-focused university were subject to an “intervention” week, each for a different topic, during which a less-experienced instructor encouraged a much higher level of student engagement, promoted active learning (answering “clicker” questions, small-group discussions, worksheets) during a significant portion of class time and built on assigned pre-class tasks. The lesson content and analysis of the assessments were informed by existing research on student learning of mathematics and student interviews, though the interventions and assessments were also intended to be compatible with typical course practices in an attempt to appeal to practitioners less familiar with the literature. Our study provides an example of active learning pedagogy (including materials and assessment used) for students at this level of mathematics in a classroom of over one hundred students, and we report improved student performance—on conceptual items in particular—with a switching replication in that each section outperformed the other on the topic for which it received the intervention.


Calculus Teaching experiment 



This work was supported by the Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative at the University of British Columbia, Canada. The authors would like to thank Carl Wieman and members of the Special Interest Group for Research in Undergraduate Mathematics Education of the Mathematical Association of America for discussions in earlier stages of our work, as well as the reviewers whose comments were extremely helpful in completing this article.

Supplementary material

11858_2014_582_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (3.2 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 3282 kb)


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Copyright information

© FIZ Karlsruhe 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Warren Code
    • 1
    Email author
  • Costanza Piccolo
    • 1
  • David Kohler
    • 1
  • Mark MacLean
    • 1
  1. 1.University of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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