In this miniseries we’ve covered how to promote and incorporate diverse identities into your syllabus, ways to promote a myriad of types of mathematical thinking, how to establish and teach norms, and laying out the year in a Hilbertian “challenge problem” style. Now we’re going to put it all together. I’ll give some additional suggestions of things to include in your syllabus, ways of making your syllabus more relevant and useful, and providing an example of a syllabus.
What else do I include in my syllabus?
We’ve covered most of the big things that we’ll be emphasizing in the first month of school: identity, access, norms, and curricula. We do also want to carve some space for informational stuff:
- Contact information
- Preferred pronouns
- Classroom website
- Office/Tutoring hours
- Social Media information (if appropriately sharable)
- Grade breakdown, perhaps with some commentary on the purpose, meaning, value, or accuracy of grades (or lack thereof)
I would also stipulate that as much as this information can be helpful, there’s a diminishing returns effect when it comes to classroom information. Prioritize what you want to communicate.
How can I make the syllabus more relevant?
Many teachers require students and/or parents to sign their syllabus to demonstrate they’ve communicated expectations loud and clear. I get the sentiment, but as a teacher and as a parent, I can state unequivocally that that’s hogwash. Parents and students are deluged by things to sign at the beginning of the year and it’s rare that the signature is anything more than a rubber stamp.
Instead, try to make your syllabus a bit more visually pleasing and interactive.
I’m by no means a graphic designer. But, as with worksheets, handouts, and any other printed materials you give to students, try to add an air of aesthetics. Add visuals where possible. Break up the text. Use tables. Go with a good, non-comic sans font. If your school hasn’t locked down the color toner (unlikely), give it a hit of color.
Also, add some space for some interactivity. As you’re reviewing your syllabus, allow for some quick thinking and journaling. Give some space for some math doodles or even a Which One Doesn’t Belong?
Now that you’ve considered who is a mathematician, what do mathematicians do, how will you communicate your vision of math and your math classroom, let’s look at an example syllabus.
Here’s a syllabus for Geometry.
Consider this an attempt at condensing my vision for my Geometry class into a one, front-and-back page paper. It’s always a useful exercise to force yourself to condense ideas.
I wouldn’t suggest this is the perfect syllabus. It adheres to much of what I’ve tried to communicate throughout this miniseries. Too, as I learn more (and more) I’ll certainly have to update it. In the comments, I’d love to hear what I missed or what you do to make your syllabi achieve what you want them to. Links to examples are very, VERY welcome!
To conclude this mini-series, I’ll restate that what we did here – what we really did – was create a condensed vision for your math course. The creation of a syllabus is a useful exercise, not merely for the ability to communicate your vision of math, but rather to develop a vision in the first place. Without a syllabus, I would be unmoored or incoherent. If we’re thoughtful about what we communicate – and do it in a way that honors our vision – we’re more likely to keep ourselves accountable to living it out. Even if it exists as a piece of paper.
The Math Syllabus Bootcamp Miniseries
- Intro Post
- Part 1: Identity. Who is a mathematician?
- Part 2: Smartness. What does it mean to be a mathematician?
- Part 3. Norms. What are the expectations for quality collaborative work?
- Part 4: Anchor Problems. A Hilbertian Approach to Curriculum Mapping.
- Part 5: Putting it all together. Additional nuts & bolts and an example syllabus.