College Math Teaching

August 21, 2015

Just shoot me. Now. (personal…and my screw up…)

The upcoming semester line up:

1. My original schedule called for science/engineering calculus II, “business calculus” I, and numerical analysis. No, my specialty is pure math (topology) but I got roped into teaching this course a few years ago, and because no one complained…guess who is stuck with it now? 🙂 (and yes, as an undergraduate, and once as a part time graduate student, I made C’s in this class)

2. But a part time faculty who taught our actuarial mathematics classes got called away so..I said “if you can’t find anyone else…” and so I got stuck with that class (in lieu of the “business calculus” class)

3. I get an e-mail about the class; I read the Fall 2014 syllabus and so prepare based on that (since it is Fall 2015)..but the topics for that class go “spring, fall, off, fall, spring” instead of “fall/spring”…so I had prepared FOR THE WRONG CLASS and ordered THE WRONG BOOK.

I caught that a week prior to classes starting..hence frantic e-mail to the department chair and secretary….and I’ll have to really work some this weekend.

Fortunately much of the stuff in this topic (“life contingencies”) is like reliability engineering and I’ve had that class. Things like the “survival function” and “bathtub curve” are familiar to me. The mathematics won’t be hard; I’ll have to focus my self study on definitions and notation.

Still, this is more interesting than I’d hoped that it would be.

The positive: I’ll have learned some new mathematics (I always learn something new every time I teach numerical analysis) and new applications of mathematics (the life contingencies …and I’ve already learned a little bit of interest theory by preparing for the class that I thought that I was teaching..)

The university
But our university (6000 students, 5000 undergraduates) is suffering from an enrollment slump for the second year in a row. We are at about 85-88 percent of what would be a “healthy” enrollment. The place is in turmoil; we lost our athletic director, provost (left) and president, the flagship basketball team has hit rock bottom and things are in disarray.

So we have a second “small” class but this time: enrollments are UP in our remedial sections. UP. And many who couldn’t place into our regular calculus sequence have been admitted…by …engineering. Seriously. They are hurting that badly, and when they hurt, WE hurt.

I’ll be shielded from much of that in the classroom because of the classes I am teaching BUT with these changes come “changes in major”; we are going to try to make our major easier to navigate by trying to maximize flexibility by making our “required courses” less prerequisite dependent. It will water down the major somewhat but hopefully make it more likely that we keep a major.

Oh well…this is what I get for taking my Ph. D. in pure mathematics instead of applied. 🙂



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