# The Thayer Method: Unique to West Point?

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The Thayer Method: Unique to West Point?

What Do Some Cadets Think The Thayer Method Is?
The Thayer method is a terrible way to learn math. When I approached my teacher with a question about a homework problem I was told to take boards. I learn best by seeing someone who knows what they are doing work the problem. The Thayer method is almost a complete failure in this course. Students that are not good at math and try to teach themselves find it harder to understand the material after they have confused themselves attempting to understand it.

What Do Other Cadets Think of The Thayer Method?
My ability to teach myself has definitely increased. I never had to really teach my self much because I always had a teacher who would teach it. Here, it was more the teacher would briefly go over concepts, and then we would do practice problems. So, I did have to read the book each night, study more, etc. I would say that there is a challenging but effective way of teaching. It’s the idea of the student learning the next lesson prior to coming to class, and asking questions to clarify anything they didn’t understand. It forces us to be more responsible for our own learning.

Scenario It’s Lesson 1 in your course. You plan on doing cadet introductions, going over the course website, and talking about your expectations for the semester. You want to use student-centered learning (Thayer Method) in your classroom starting on Lesson 2. There are ten pages of reading in the text, four suggested problems, and the following three lesson objectives assigned in the syllabus for Lesson 2: Given a data set: Calculate (in Excel) and understand the sample mean and median. Calculate (in Excel) and understand the sample variance and standard deviation. Plot (in Excel) and understand a histogram. What are some things you can do to encourage cadets to engage with the material outside the classroom?

Training vs. Education trainer is responsible
trainer imposes discipline focus on perfecting a known, past activity. mastering routines is important. student is responsible student imposes discipline focus on prep for an unknown future. open and critical thinking is important. “Students must learn on their own, outside the classroom, is the main feature that distinguishes college from high school.” Steven Zucker Students are coming from High School!

The Thayer Method Today
Caution regarding the use of too much lecture: “All too often we focus on a narrow collection of well-defined tasks and train students to execute those tasks in a routine, if not algorithmic fashion… …then we test the students on tasks that are very close to the ones they have been taught. If they succeed on those problems, we and they congratulate each other on the fact that they have learned some powerful mathematical techniques.” – L.D. Fink

References “Thayer method of instruction at the United States Military Academy: A modest history and a modern personal account”, Amy Shell, PRIMUS, 2002. “Why Don’t My Students Think I’m Groovy?” Christy Price, E-xcellence in Teaching, 2010.

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