Department of Mathematics FAS Harvard University One Oxford Street Cambridge MA 02138 USA Tel: (617) 495-2171 Fax: (617) 495-5132
The calculus course Math X uses a Peer-Led Team Learning (PLTL) model in its supplement workshops. PLTL was developed in the 1990s and has been successfully used at a number of institutions around the country in the fields of chemistry, physics, biology, and mathematics. The PLTL model actively engages students in the learning process by having them solve carefully structured problems in small groups under the direction of a trained peer leader. Other schools using this model have found that it improved student content knowledge, helped students to develop communication skills, and increased student satisfaction.

The peer leaders are students who have recently completed Math X. They participate in a weekly two-hour training session that prepares them for leading a weekly 90-minute workshop for seven to eight current Math X students. The peer leaders are required to take attendance at the workshops, but they have no grading responsibilities and don't do any general tutoring.

The peer leader is not meant to be an "expert" in the subject matter of the course, but a (slightly) more experienced student who can facilitate inquiry and productive group interaction. The peer leader doesn't have an answer key, but has been through the workshop previously and so he or she can provide encouragement and a bit of guidance when the group gets stuck. The peer leaders have also been through training in which they learn how to manage group interactions and how to help students keep working productively when they start to feel frustrated.

The problems for the weekly workshops are non-standard problems, developed mostly in-house, that require the students to formulate new ideas, reevaluate their existing conceptions, and use the mathematics they have learned in novel situations. They are designed to get at the heart of what we want students to learn from the course and to help uncover common misconceptions. Above all, they are designed to get the students thinking about mathematics and discussing mathematics with each other.