Editors’ Picks 2021

One of the exciting elements of being the Communications Editor is that I get to connect people with the exciting papers in PRIMUS that I think will impact their professional work for the better. In support of this goal, Taylor & Francis allows us (Matt Boelkins, Kathy Weld, and me) to select papers each year as Editors’ Picks and makes them freely available for download to all without login, without requiring access to the journal.

This blog post is intended to share a little about the categories of Picks and why I am excited about these particular papers. In general, I am excited by papers that push the boundaries of the ways we often think about our work as faculty and challenges us to recommit to being our best. I think it’s also really important that PRIMUS, as the most visible journal that engages mathematics and pedagogy for a readership of mathematicians of all types, supports this broad community; so I’m excited that this collection spans so many of our various subdisciplines and professional responsibilities.

MOST DOWNLOADED: We select a paper that is already highly active in part because this activity is evidence that people are finding this paper useful and compelling. This suggests to me that the subset of people who already had access to this paper, and people who went out of their way to get this paper, believe that this paper needs to be ready by a wider cross-section of our community.

This year, we selected “Promoting Creativity in General Education Mathematics Courses” by Mika Munakata, Ashwin Vaidya, Ceire Monahan, and Erin Krupa. This paper is a reminder that lower-division and non-major courses should be designed even more carefully than major courses to help students engage in math creatively.

NEW AUTHOR: Writing for PRIMUS is different from the writing almost all of us were trained to do, and it takes serious work to learn this new skill, whether the authors are junior faculty or more seasoned colleagues writing about the classroom for the first time. I am very grateful for the work of the editors and reviewers in supporting authors in this learning, but we also want to celebrate authors whose first contribution to PRIMUS is exemplary.

This year, we selected “Second Chance Grading: An Equitable, Meaningful, and Easy-to-Implement Grading System that Synergizes the Research on Testing for Learning, Mastery Grading, and Growth Mindsets” by Oscar E. Fernandez. This article synthesizes ideas about grading that tries to support learning in two ways: by combining multiple ideas from the disciplinary conversation into one paper and by integrating those ideas into individual courses.

SPECIAL ISSUES: Guest Editors do a lot of exciting work in recruiting high quality papers focused on topical themes for PRIMUS, and we are often spoiled for choice in terms of excellent special issues when selecting papers from special issues that we would like to amplify. These individual papers are great, but making them freely available also helps draw readers into the special issue in general.

This year, we selected “The Brokenness of Broken Windows: An Introductory Statistics Project on Race, Policing, and Criminal Justice” by Jared Warner. This article details a semester-length project for a course in statistics in which students gather, analyze, and represent data in ways that are meaningful to them. This paper is part of the larger Special Issue on Math For Social Justice, v29.3-4, edited by Catherine Buell and Bonnie Shulman.

EDITORS’ CHOICE: I see this category as our opportunity to assert a stronger editorial perspective into the higher education mathematics discussion. Is there an assumption that is taken as axiomatic that we need to reconsider? Are there voices that are not being heard? Where do we need to be pushed a little further out of our comfort zones?

This year, we selected “Helping Students Think Like Mathematicians: Modeling-Related Rates with 2 Diagrams” by Nicole Engelke Infante. This paper is a deep dive into the ways that variables change from unknowns to parameters to covarying quantities in the context of related rates activities. This paper is an excellent example of a bridge between education research and practitioner implementation, and I think that by unpacking ideas about variables it can help practitioners understand their students’ struggles in a wide variety of contexts. I look forward to many more papers that make education research broadly accessible, like this paper.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Similarly to the Editors’ Choice, we select a paper from the Archives, perhaps because it was ahead of its time or has become highly salient again. Is there an idea from which we can learn without having to recreate it from the ground up?

This year, we selected “An Inquiry-Oriented Approach to Span and Linear Independence: The Case of the Magic Carpet Ride Sequence” by Megan Wawro, Chris Rasmussen, Michelle Zandieh, George Franklin Sweeney, and Christine Larson. This paper discusses an approach to teaching Linear Algebra, grounded in design research coming from the RUME (research on undergraduate mathematics education) community, an inquiry-oriented approach that has had wide uptake and has supported important and radical improvements in the teaching of linear algebra and other courses.


Please download, read, and discuss these papers, and please help us share these pieces of high quality writing widely! [And as always, MAA members can access all of PRIMUS, and we certainly hope that readers will encourage their institutions to subscribe to and support the journal.]

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