College Math Teaching

March 13, 2014

Time to update my course policy statement?

Filed under: academia, editorial — Tags: , — collegemathteaching @ 3:33 pm

Today, I got an e-mail from a panicked student (9:12 am): “I really need to see you.”
Then another e-mail 30 minutes later: “I am sitting in the math department; I can come back at 1:30 (a time when I am teaching another class; yes, I post my office hours and class schedule on my door).

This is new: some students think that we see our e-mail instantly (I don’t) and that we are always willing (and able!) to drop everything on a moment’s notice because they are distressed.

If this starts to happen frequently, it will be time to inform students at the start of the semester that I need advance notice to meet with them during non-scheduled office hours.

Update: the student looked at my door: I had posted office hours under my name (afternoon).

Then I had posted: Schedule: M, W, F 9-10 (mth 510), M, W, Th, F (1-3) Mth 115

The student thought that these were office hours instead of “when I taught class”. Oh well. I’ll have to write a new, crystal clear note on my door.


February 20, 2014

Dunning-Kruger effect in lower division courses

Filed under: calculus, editorial, pedagogy — Tags: , — collegemathteaching @ 6:53 pm

If you don’t know what the Dunning-Kruger effect is, go here. In a nutshell: it takes a bit of intelligence/competence to recognize one’s own incompetence.

THAT is why I often dread handing exams back in off-semester “faux calculus” courses (frequently called “brief calculus” or “business calculus”).

The population for the “off semester”: usually students who did poorly in our placement exams and had to start with “college” algebra, or people who have already flunked the course at least once, as well as people who simply hate math.

That many have little natural ability doesn’t bother me. That they struggle to understand that “a number” might be zero doesn’t bother me that much (context: I told them that lim_{x \rightarrow a} \frac{f(x)}{g(x)} ALWAYS fails to exist if both limits exist and lim_{x \rightarrow a}f(x) \ne 0 and lim_{x \rightarrow a}g(x) = 0 .)

What bothers me: some won’t accept the following: if THEY think that they are right and I tell them that they are wrong, there is very high probability that I am right. Too many just refuse to even entertain this idea, no matter how poor their record in mathematics is.

Of course, other disciplines have it worse….so this is just a whine about teaching the very bad students in what amounts to a remedial course.

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