TPSE eNews #6

Scott Wolpert named Senior Consultant; TPSE responds to the pandemic with topical webinars addressing institutional, departmental, faculty and student concerns. Read on for details.


We are pleased to announce that Professor Scott Wolpert, Distinguished Scholar-Teacher at the University of Maryland, has been named Senior Consultant to TPSE Math. Professor Wolpert will work with the TPSE Board and staff to develop and implement innovative strategies to strengthen and expand TPSE’s efforts related to improving graduate education in mathematics. Read more here.


The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown higher education into a state of flux.  Ensuring that students are able to receive quality online instruction has become of paramount importance. From the onset of the pandemic, TPSE Math and its network of partners have been quick to respond to concerns and challenges faced by faculty and other mathematics professionals.

With partners, TPSE organized a number of webinars to facilitate the exchange of information related to topics including online learning, teaching, and assessment, and as a forum for mathematics faculty to talk through current and future challenges facing the education community.

Inaugural Chairs Forums

More than 200 math department chairs met to discuss their challenges via Zoom on May 29. Organized by Director of Strategy and Implementation Dave Kung and MAG member Alycia Marshall, the forums served as an opportunity to exchange ideas and brainstorm solutions to common challenges. About 40 other MAG members and community leaders joined the effort to facilitate discussion groups of 10 to 15 and record their ideas.

With higher education budgets in peril due to the coronavirus pandemic, the conversations covered many of the different ways the mathematics community is responding. 

Stay tuned for a report summarizing discussions, and notices of future gatherings.

Electronic Seminar on Mathematics Education

The Electronic Seminar on Mathematics Education (ESME), a longstanding series co-organized by MIT, Cornell and TPSE, pivoted to focus on topics of particular relevance in the current circumstances.

  • Active Learning Online: Panel Discussion (March 17) - A panel discussion on the use and future of online learning, featuring Rick Cleary, Babson College; Rachel Levy, MAA; and Mike Weimerskirch, University of Minnesota. The panelists addressed how to make online instruction student-centered, rigorous, and equitable. Watch here.
  • TPSE’s Top Ten Things Every Online Instructor Should Do (March 31) – A list compiled by members of the Math Advisory Group’s subgroup on Teaching Strategies and Practices was the subject of this webinar, led by Abbe Herzig,  AMS; and Dave Kung, TPSE Math and Saint Mary’s College of Maryland. Watch here.
  • Keep It Active: Engaging Students in Virtual Classrooms (April 7) - Rena Levitt, Professor and Lead-of-Instruction of the College of Computational Sciences from Minerva Schools, shared her experience teaching online for the past five years and led participants through a class simulation in which they played the role of students. Watch here.
  • Calculus in Context: Introducing Calculus Ideas through Epidemiology Models (April 14) - Eric Stade, University of Colorado, described how the Susceptible-Infected-Recovered (S-I-R) model used in epidemiology can be applied to a first semester Calculus course. Watch here.

Special Webinar: Options & Advice for Assessing Students' Learning Online

Already active before the pandemic, the TPSE MAG subgroup on Teaching Strategies and Practices, led by Nancy Sattler, Terra Community College and Ron Buckmire, Occidental College, became a significant focus for TPSE as its work gained immediacy. The group’s monthly meetings, open to all and available for viewing here, led to the “Top Ten” list described above. It also revealed significant concern among faculty about student assessment in online settings.

That in turn led to an exceptionally well-attended webinar (May 4), co-organized with MAA, on assessment strategies. Panelists included Abbe Herzig, AMS; Rena Levitt, Minerva Schools; Francis Su, Harvey Mudd College; and Michelle Younker, Owens Community College. Panelists and participants raised issues related to the increased time commitment of online instruction, how to establish standards, test remotely and truly gauge student learning, and how to prevent cheating. Watch here.

As institutions of higher education are forced to make changes to traditional forms of instruction in response to the extraordinary challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, TPSE will continue to provide guidance and support to the mathematics community.

Future webinars will be announced here.