Publication Date



Technical Report: UTEP-CS-14-03


Calculus is a known bottleneck for many students studying science and engineering. Various techniques have been developed to enhance the students' success. A recent study published in the Notices of American Mathematical Society showed that only one factor determines the success of a technique: the presence of immediate feedback. On average, students who receive immediate feedback learn twice faster than students who are taught in a more traditional way, with a serious feedback only once or twice a semester (after a test).

The very fact that immediate feedback is helpful is not surprising: it helps the student clear misconceptions and avoid the wrong paths. However, the fact that different techniques involving feedback lead to practically the same learning speed-up is intriguing. To explain this speed-up, we provide a simplified first-order description of a learning process in simple geometric terms. We show that already in this first approximation, the geometric description leads to the observed two-fold speed-up in learning.