Muskingum University Associate Professor of Mathematics Dr. Matt Davis uses a mastery learning approach to teaching his first-year students, helping them build their confidence and advance their understanding of this vital subject.
“With a mastery learning approach, the idea is to focus on a set of standard mathematical skills and problem-solving abilities that students need to acquire by the end of a course,” Dr. Davis explains. “As long as a student can demonstrate that they have mastered the skill, they are not penalized in their grading for how long it takes them to learn the concepts while they work through a ‘productive struggling’ process.”
According to Dr. Davis, more traditional approaches to teaching mathematics typically rely on averaging together every homework, quiz, and test taken sequentially throughout the course. This approach can be discouraging for students who learn mathematical skills at their own pace.
“The mastery learning approach builds students’ confidence,” said Dr. Davis. “The testing stakes and student anxiety are lowered because they always have the option to redo, retake, and try again. An important part of my job is combatting their perceptions that they are either a ‘math person’ or ‘not a math person’ – they simply need to work at it to get better at it. The mastery learning approach also helps students develop their ability to identify areas where they need to improve, which is a skill that translates to all of their learning at Muskingum and beyond.”
Outside of the classroom, Dr. Davis enjoys connecting with students in shared areas of interest. He assists with the broadcasts for the University’s esports teams, commentating on the League of Legends games, and is a faculty member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia. He has also sung with the campus choirs and performed with the Zanesville Community Theatre.
Dr. Davis joined the Muskingum faculty in 2012 and is a past chair of the University’s Mathematics and Computer Science Department.