note: From the top of, you can access this syllabus if you misplace yours, want to explore its links, or see any updates to it.  Syllabus is subject to modification by instructor to meet course needs, especially if there are disruptions such as an H1N1 epidemic or unexpected changes in class size, resources, student backgrounds, etc.


Course Number: MATH 5195-003 (CRN#12712)  

Course Title: Graduate Seminar (Teaching Mathematics and Statistics)      

Credit Hours: 1

Term: Fall 2010

Prerequisite:  no particular course is a prerequisite, but this course is intended for full-time graduate students having or who will soon have their first teaching experiences

Course Fee:  none


Course Meetings & Location:  Fridays (except Nov. 26 and Dec. 3) 1:30-2:20 in Bell Hall 130A and our “finals week meeting time” would be as scheduled by UTEP;  In the event of a major disruption (e.g., H1N1 epidemic), be prepared to maintain course progress via alternative means (e.g., phone, Elluminate, Internet, a Blackboard course shell, etc.). Also, be sure to check your email (especially your UTEP address) regularly, especially for announcements in between our weekly meetings.


Instructor:  Assoc. Prof. Dr. Larry Lesser (rhymes with “professor”, spelled like “<”)   

I began teaching university courses (especially statistics!) in 1988, and I’ve also worked as a full-time high school math teacher.  My teaching innovations have generated invited regional/national conference keynotes, stories/interviews in mass media (e.g., CNN Headline News), and recognitions at my institution (including 2001 AASU Gignilliat Professor and 2008-2011 UTEP CETaL Fellow) and beyond (e.g., 2010 Southwestern Section of the Mathematical Association of America Distinguished Teaching Award).


Office Location:  Bell Hall 213

Contact Info:             Phone:   (915) 747-6845

                        Email  Lesser (at) (please include 1380 in the subject line)


Fax: (915) 747-6502 (note: this is a math department fax, so be sure to

have my name clearly on it; be aware that staff are not available to relay faxes to me outside the math dept’s hours of M-F 8-12, 1-5

            Emergency Contact: (915) 747-5761 (during math dept office hours)

Office hours:  Mon 5:45-6:15, Wed 3-3:45, and by appointment; additional office hours

or changes will be announced/posted later; students are also welcome to try stopping by anytime for short questions; to  or to send me an email request an appointment for longer questions, please email me several possible times that would work for you and I will reply with which option works in my schedule


Textbook(s), Materials: Rishel, Tom. A Handbook for Mathematics Teaching Assistants

(Preliminary Ed.) Mathematical Association of America.  It’s FREE at:

It is your responsibility to “bring this book” to each class, whether you print out your own hardcopy or have it downloaded to your laptop.  Other resources (e.g., see Additional Resources near the end of this syllabus) include URLs or articles which will be accessible online or on reserve in the UTEP library. Read/do each assignment before the class meeting we discuss it.


Course Objectives (Learning Outcomes):  Students will….

  • Gain exposure to resources, terminology, cognitive models, and important conceptual issues in teaching mathematics/statistics.
  • Gain ability to handle “nuts and bolts” of teaching, including syllabi, assessment/grading, group work, technology, handling conflicts, making accommodations (e.g., for English language learners), etc.
  • Become a more reflective practitioner to be able to implement (and assess) one’s pedagogical practices more intentionally
  • Become more articulate in describing one’s pedagogy and philosophy of mathematics/statistics education (to one’s students, future employers, etc.)
  • Cultivate a sense of teaching as a community and as an ongoing process


Course Activities/Assignments:  Students will participate in (and possibly occasionally help lead) in-class activities/discussions, read assigned articles and chapters, do (some form of) teaching and receive feedback, do structured observations of other people teaching, attend a workshop, and write short papers.  


Assessment of Course Objectives:  Assessments include written reflections/papers and records of attendance/participation in class discussions.


Course Schedule:  Census Day: Sept. 8

                                Get formative feedback on your teaching: September/October

                                Have your teaching videotaped: between October & mid-November

                    Deadline to Drop with a “W”:  Oct. 29

                                Last Regular Class Meeting: Nov. 19

                                Reflection Paper #1: due by Mon., Nov. 29, noon

        Reflection Paper #2: due by Thurs., Dec. 2, noon

                                Reflection Paper #3: due by Thurs., Dec. 2, noon

                                Teaching Statement: due by Thurs., Dec. 2, noon

Final Exam Week Meeting: Dec. ___ (as scheduled by UTEP)

(the final exam week meeting will not be a final exam, but a time available for final discussion and debriefing and will probably not last the entire 2.5-hour period) 




Grading Policy: after any rescaling needed for all components to be on the 0-100 scale, the grade is determined by the usual cutoffs of 90-80-70-60 based on these parts:

* Class participation/attendance (20%):  this part is calculated as 100(MU E)/M, where

U = # of days of unexcused absence/nonparticipation, M = # of class meetings we have, 

and E = max{0, -2 + number of days of excused absence or nonparticipation}

This reflects how crucial participation and attendance are for this kind of interactive, beyond-the-book course, but without penalizing someone who has rare (excused) absences.

* Reflection Paper #1: Your Fall 2009 Teaching (30%):  (due on or before Mon. Nov.

29 at noon) typed, 2-3 pages, 12-point font, 1” margins, double-spaced.  This will

take into account what you learned (and perhaps what you might or have changed as a result) from the structured, formative feedback you received on your teaching this semester (e.g., videotaped observation, and any further feedback you received or solicited from students or peers; see end of the syllabus for more detail).  Include reflection upon your greatest strengths and upon areas that have the most room for improvement. 

* Reflection Paper #2: Observation of Someone Else’s Teaching (15%).  Find a peer

or professor who agrees in advance to have you attend one class meeting and complete an observation using a structured form such as Appendix III of the UTEP Peer Observation Booklet.  You will give the person you observed a copy of the observation (if she wants it) and you will turn in to me (by Thursday, noon, Dec. 2) a 1-2 page reflection on the experience of doing the observation, including any challenges or limitations you encountered and what you learned from doing it.  Sometimes we learn from watching others insights about things we are (or are not) doing.  This reflection is assessed not just by completion or effort, and not by grammar/spelling, but by quality of insight and reflectiveness. 

* Reflection Paper #3: Attend one teaching-oriented workshop, seminar or class

(15%).  Anytime this semester, attend the workshop and turn in by noon, Thurs. Dec. 2 a 1-page summary that includes your own reflection on what was most and least valuable about it.  As long as the content applies to mathematics/statistics, there is great flexibility on what you choose: it could be a workshop offered by CETaL, a teaching seminar offered by an academic department, or even an already-archived webinar (e.g.,

* Statement of Teaching Goals/Philosophy (20%) (due on or before Dec. 2

at noon; yes, this is a Thursday) 2-3 pages, typed, 12 point font, 1” margins, double-spaced; this narrative includes your ideas about teaching and learning, a description of how you teach, and why you teach that way (examples and background on this can be Googled, such as: or or some links at This statement will grow and develop over your career, but it’s good to start thinking about this from the beginning.

* Quizzes:  occasional unannounced quizzes will be taken into account only if your final

average falls a point below a letter grade cutoff (i.e., they can only help)


Makeup Policy: Much of this course involves beyond-the-book group activities, experiences or discussions that are virtually impossible to recreate or “make up”.  Successful completion of this course is intended not only to imply you have demonstrated sufficient knowledge acquisition, but also that you have been exposed to key processes, modeling, and experiences. Therefore, if you are now in a situation where you expect to have frequent absences, you might consider taking this class another semester.  In general (out of fairness and logistics), late work will not be accepted, and may be subject to a penalty in the rare borderline cases that it is accepted at the instructor’s discretion.  


Attendance Policy:  Attendance is required and taken each meeting using a sign-in sheet.

The instructor may count late arrival, early departure, or blatant nonparticipation as a half-absence or even a full absence, depending on what is missed. 

It’s your responsibility to….

(1) Sign the attendance sheet each day you attend before I pack up my materials.

(2) Let me know by email (Lesser (at) or voicemail (747-6845) or daytime math dept. fax (747-6502) at the earliest opportunity if you have a serious situation which may affect a test, major assessment deadline, or the final exam week meeting. If you need to miss 1 or 2 regular class meetings for any reason, you do NOT need to let me know or tell me why – just see #5 below.  If you will be missing a large number of regular class meetings in a row, even if no test is affected, then you should let me know.

(3) Give me a written note or email by the 15th day of the semester [Sept. 13] if you will have absence for religious holy days (which are excused, of course).  

(4) Give me an email or written documentation as soon as possible if you anticipate the possibility of missing large parts of class due to exceptional circumstances such as military service/training, childbirth, or competing on official UTEP athletic teams.

(5) Have a classmate give you copies of notes, handouts and announcements if you miss a class; write down 3 classmates’ contact information right here for this purpose:


classmate #1 name_____________________ phone_____________ email____________


classmate #2 name_____________________ phone_____________ email____________


classmate #3 name_____________________ phone_____________ email____________


As the UTEP Catalog says, “When in the judgment of the instructor, a student has been absent to such a degree as to impair his or her status relative to credit for the course, the instructor may drop the student from the class with a grade of “W” before the course drop deadline [Oct. 29] and with a grade of “F” after the course drop deadline.”  In practical terms, this means a student is subject to being dropped for more than 4 absences (unless there has been a reason I have approved). If you choose to withdraw, I ask you to submit the formal paperwork and send me an email to let me know rather than just stop attending class and assume you will be withdrawn automatically.  On a positive note, a strong record of attendance will be taken into account if your final average is a point below a letter grade cutoff.


Academic Integrity Policy: It’s UTEP’s policy (and mine) for all suspected violations to be referred to the Dean of Students for investigation and disposition (See Section 1.3.1 of the Handbook for Operating Procedures; Cheating, plagiarism and collusion in dishonest activities are serious acts which erode the university’s purpose and integrity and cheapen the learning experience for us all. Don’t resubmit work completed for other classes without specific acknowledgment and permission from me.  It is expected that work you submit represents your own effort (or your own group’s effort, if it is a group project), will not involve copying from or accessing unauthorized resources or people (e.g., from a previous year’s class).  Cite references that you do consult, using APA style with complete citations even for websites and people you consult. For Group Work:  Within a group, members are allowed to divide up subsets of the project for which individuals will take the initial responsibility for coordinating efforts, but it is assumed that by the time a group turns in a writeup that all members have read, discussed, contributed to, and understand what is being turned in.  Group members may even discuss general ideas and strategies with members of other groups, but NOT share parts of actual written work.  At a minimum, to be safe, put away all written notes and writing materials and recording devices before having any intergroup conversations.  And if you still see a “gray area,” play it safe and ask the instructor!


Civility Statement: You are expected to follow basic standards of courtesy (e.g., “Student Conduct” and “Disruptive Acts Policy” in the UTEP Catalog) and may be dismissed from class for blatant or sustained disruptive behavior. Your comments during classroom discussions need to focus constructively and respectfully on the intellectual merit of a position, not critiquing the person expressing it.  You should avoid side conversations when one person (me, or another student) is talking to the whole class. Also, do not engage in phone, email or text conversations during class. Laptops should not be open unless they are being used to take notes during lectures, work on course projects during group work time, or access an electronic copy of the textbook.  (In other words, off-task activities such as texting, Facebook, YouTube, or emailing are unacceptable because they distract and disrupt class participation.)  If you truly are expecting an urgent call on your cell phone or pager, please let me know and sit near the door to minimize disruption (and have your phone on “vibrate” instead of anything loud), and have it handy so you don’t have to dig through a backpack for it). Otherwise, please keep your phone/pager off during class.  Feel free to give your family member or child care provider the phone number for an academic office or lab (e.g., the Math Dept. 747-5761 and Bell Hall ACES lab station 747-8814) near our classroom so you can rest assured that staff can quickly let you know if there is a true emergency.


Disability Statement: If you have or believe you have a disability requiring accommodations, you may wish to self-identify by contacting the Disabled Student Services Office (DSSO; 747-5148; East Union Building 106;; to show documentation or register for testing and services.  DSSO will ask you to discuss needed accommodations with me within the first 2 weeks of the semester or as soon as disability is known, and at least 5 working days before an exam.  You are responsible to make sure I receive any DSSO instructions and accommodation letters.  DSSO provides note taking, sign language, interpreter, reader and/or scribe services, priority registration, adaptive technology, diagnostic testing for learning disabilities, assistance with learning strategies/tutoring, alternative testing location and format, and advocacy. 


Military Statement: Give me an email or written documentation as soon as possible if you anticipate the possibility of missing large parts of class due to military service.




Professionalism Statement: Beyond the previously mentioned Civility Statement, students in this course are required to exhibit professionalism that goes beyond avoiding negative behaviors.  This includes making a good faith effort in preparation for and participation in individual and collaborative class activities.  A classroom culture must be actively supported that understands that “wrong answers” are usually correct answers to a different question or valuable learning opportunities to address a common misconception. Finally, be open to local opportunities for professional growth or service.  For example, consider presenting at the GEPCTM conference (October 23, 2010) or the SUN conference (March 10-11, 2011), encouraging K-12 students to enter an ASA Project or Poster (due April 1), or joining (at cheaper student rates!) local (GEPCTM), state (TCTM), or national (NCTM, TODOS, or ASA) professional organizations.


Confidentiality: UTEP policy requires that inquiries about confidential information such as grades cannot be done over the phone, but must be from your account and accompanied by your 800 number.  If you want to know your course grade between our last meeting and when UTEP puts grades online, you will have a chance during the last week of class to give me a “secret code word” that I will post your course grade by at the bottom of my homepage. 


Additional Pedagogical Bibliography and Resources:


Larsen, Michael D. (2006) “Advice for New and Student Lecturers on Probability and

Statistics.” Journal of Statistics Education, 14(1),

Garfield, Joan & Everson, Michelle (2009). “Preparing Teachers of Statistics: A Graduate

Course for Future Teachers.” Journal of Statistics Education, 17(2),


case studies from Solomon Friedberg et al.’s Teaching Mathematics in Colleges and Universities: Case Studies for Today’s Classroom (2001). American Mathematical Society and Mathematical Association of America


useful books on the teaching of mathematics/statistics:

Thomas W. Rishel (2000) Teaching First: A Guide for New Mathematicians (MAA Notes #54)

Matt DeLong and Dale Winter (2002). Learning to Teach and Teaching to Learn Mathematics: Resources

for Professional Development.  (MAA Notes #57)

Thomas Moore (2000) Resources for Undergraduate Instructors Teaching Statistics.  (MAA Notes #52)
Florence and Sheldon Gordon, Eds. (1992) Statistics for the Twenty-First Century.  (MAA Notes 26)

Andrew Gelman & Deborah Nolan (2002). Teaching Statistics: A Bag of Tricks. Oxford University Press

Joan B. Garfield (2005). Innovations in Teaching Statistics. (MAA Notes 65)

Michael R. Hulsizer & Linda M. Woolf (2009). A Guide to Teaching Statistics: Innovations and Best

Practices.  Wiley-Blackwell. has links for

searching for education papers (some are education research, some just pedagogy)


statistics: &

math/general: (UTEP has a free subscription)  (see “Publications” such as Crossroads)


resources provided for UTEP students:

(e.g., MaRCS: Library room 218 (747-5366);

Writing Center:, Library 227; 747-5112;


Counseling Center:;

policy issues from the Handbook of Operating Procedures ( check out key items in Section II (chapters 1.3.1, 6.3, 6.4) and Section III (4.2, 4.8.2, 4.8.3, 4.8.4, 4.12, 4.14, 4.15, 4.16, 4.17, 4.19.1);

Math Study Tips:


Formative Feedback on Your Teaching:

One of the most important and practical parts of this course will be the opportunity for you to get formative evaluation (and perhaps make adjustments) on your teaching this very semester! 


If you are teaching a class this semester, you must first get some “preliminary formative feedback” sometime in the last half of September (earlier than that doesn’t give you enough of a “baseline,” later than that doesn’t give you time to make adjustments).  The exact nature of this is up to you – it could range from a “minute paper” you collect and analyze (we’ll discuss this in class) to arranging for CETaL (UGLC 124) to administer a structured written midterm student evaluation form during the last 10-15 minutes of a particular class meeting that you pick.   Then, after having learned something from that feedback, you will arrange to have your teaching observed anytime in October during one of the class meetings where you are teaching.

Ideally, this would be the same class you received earlier feedback on so that we have an additional data point for the same class.  The class (or a tape of the class) will be observed by me and/or someone like CETaL’s Dr. Meeuwsen.  In any case, it is required that you coordinate with Karla Ramirez (747-8793;; UGLC 124) to schedule a person coming out with the CETaL videocamera to tape the class.  This will give you the benefit of later watching your teaching from the students’ perspective, as you receive additional feedback.   You are required to email CETaL with at least 2 weeks’ advance notice of when you would like to be videotaped (give a couple of alternate dates, if possible) so that they can arrange for their staff to do the taping – and keep me in the loop as well. Remember, this is only for formative feedback-- the videotape will not be viewed by anyone except you and the faculty giving feedback (e.g., me and/or the CETaL Director), and will be erased after you have watched it and received feedback.  Some background about Assessment and Observation methods is at and at


note: if you are not teaching a class this semester, you can still get feedback on your teaching by “guest teaching” for someone who is teaching, or by doing a shorter micro-teaching lesson (whose topic and time you clear with me in advance) for us in our 5195 classroom. But either way, you will need to have your teaching taped so you can watch it and get feedback on it later.