Writing Across the Curriculum
As any good math instructor knows, math of any sort is not just an exercise in calculations—it’s a way of learning how to think, reason, and analyze.
Associate Professor Annette Leopard, recipient of this year’s Writing Across the Curriculum Award, wants her students to employ their critical thinking skills while they learn math. Therefore, she assigns analytical papers in which students discuss the logic they used to reach their numerical results and the bearing those results have on the problem at hand.
“I think of math as a language that can be learned,” she said. “English is our native tongue. The writing assignments help students learn to express concepts in their native tongue. They also understand mathematical concepts better when they explain them by writing about them.”
In the 1990s, when she was asked to turn her statistics class (MTH 160) into a Writing Intensive (WR) course, Leopard embraced the challenge of integrating writing into a traditionally non-writing discipline. She added her Survey of Mathematics course (MTH 150) to the WR list several years later. Her challenge now is to keep the concept fresh. To that end, Leopard assigns papers that require students to address “real world” problems.
“I’m always trying to offer new problems to solve based on current events,” Leopard said. “When gas prices were sky high, I gave an assignment for students to determine how far you should be willing to drive for a lower gas price. That allowed them to consider a variety of variables, explore the effect of each, then comment on what led them to their recommendation.”
Leopard, who has taught math at MCC for 26 years, is also chair of the Curriculum Committee and was a member of the Writing Across the Curriculum Committee for seven years. She will be chair of the Mathematics Department beginning in the fall semester.
Leopard lives in Palmyra and enjoys spending time with her two young granddaughters.