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The AoPS Classroom
Each Art of Problem Solving class is held in the AoPS online classroom. To attend each class, students log in to the Art of Problem Solving Community up to 10 minutes before class begins, then they click the Classroom link near the top of the page. The classroom then opens automatically.
The classroom consists of a main window panel in which classroom discussion takes place and an entry panel into which students type their questions and answers. The instructors render math symbols with the professional LaTeX typesetting system, and can share images in the classroom.
Quick Answers to Questions
Code in the Classroom
Each class consists of an experienced instructor leading students through a series of related problems of increasing complexity. The classes are highly interactive. Students are challenged to answer questions throughout their study of each problem. Students are also able to ask questions of their own and work one-on-one with instructors if they need more personal attention. We are able to achieve this high degree of interactivity by holding our classes in a text-and-image-only moderated classroom. This structure has many benefits over a typical classroom, such as:
Students do the work
Students learn math by solving problems, not by simply watching others solve problems. So, in our classes, instructors guide students through tackling problems, strategically asking questions rather than spoon-feeding material for the students to regurgitate. Moreover, our classroom allows all students to participate in the problem-solving process. When an instructor asks a question, all of the students are able to answer at the same time. The classroom is moderated, so these responses first go only to the instructors and assistants. This prevents the fastest students from dominating the conversation, allowing many students to respond before the instructor shares students' observations with the room. It also lets teachers catch student misconceptions as they occur.
Students are less afraid to ask and answer questions
Students' comments initially go only to the instructors, and these are only shared with the room if they fit the class. Student questions are often answered privately, and students aren't embarrassed by having their wrong answers consistently shared with the whole class. So, many students feel more comfortable asking questions or offering opinions in our classroom than in a typical room.
Students can ask a question right at the moment the answer would be most helpful
Rather than waiting until after class to ask a question, or until a teacher can find a break in the lesson to take questions, students can ask questions at any moment during class. Instructors can therefore provide assistance right when it is needed.
Students can catch up quickly if they miss some material
Students can catch up quickly if they are late to class or if they fall behind a little while thinking about a hard problem or working with an assistant. They can do so because the classroom holds a full transcript of what recently happened in the classroom. Students can therefore swiftly review what has just been discussed. This sort of quick catch-up is impossible in an audio-only classroom.
Students can focus on the material rather than on note-taking
Because full transcripts of each class are available after class, students can spend class time focusing on the problems and asking questions rather than wasting precious class time taking notes. The transcript consists of text and images, so students can print it or scan it for specific information. (As opposed to a video replay, which is very hard to scan!)
Students' concentration is not broken by others talking
It's very difficult to think about complicated concepts while someone is talking. In our classroom, students can focus on each idea without being interrupted by teachers' or students' voices. They aren't taxed by having to listen and read (or write) at the same time, and are able to focus on the challenging ideas we present without repeated interruption.
Single students cannot disrupt or dominate the classroom
The moderated nature of the classroom allows the instructor to control the pace of the classroom, as well as the impact of each student on others. Moreover, when an instructor asks a question, many students are able to answer before the answer is shared with the class. So, instead of one student trying to answer a question while others listen (or lose interest), all students have the opportunity to answer all questions.
Students don't have to reconcile auditory and visual input
In a classroom that has audio and video in addition to print, students can easily be confused about which set of information to give priority.
The printed word is more efficient than the spoken word
Try reading this page aloud at a pace at which a listener could comfortably understand what you're saying. Chances are it will take you considerably longer than it took you to read this page. Our students are generally the same: they can process what they read much faster than what they hear. Moreover, they can quickly reread items they need to reread, but can't easily rehear something that has already passed in class.