Saturday, September 09, 2006

For the best

365's been on my mind a lot since class got out yesterday afternoon.

Why?

Maggie tells me it's too much on my mind. She's probably right, as she often is when it comes to questions about me. I hate to sound cliche, but truly she knows me better than I know myself.

I logged on hoping to have something to say, but I'm having trouble finding words to wrap around my thoughts.

Am I overthinking this course?

I'm enjoying myself immensely, but I still find myself feeling unsettled. I think much of this has to do with the wacky schedule UNCA's served up for us this semester: a long first week took the steam out of everyone's engines before the first break rolled around; Labor Day stumbled in awkwardly after two full weeks had passed, granting us a shortened week this past week; and next week we've got an artificially truncated schedule with the cancellations in honor of the installation of our new chancellor. We've not yet had a chance to find our groove.

With a handful of nonmathematical classes, 365's borne the brunt of this clumsy scheduling. We've already spent class time on the syllabus and technical writing, and this coming Monday will bring us to the library.

I certainly don't regret setting time aside for these topics, and when I next teach this course you can bet they'll still play a major role, yet it'll be nice to have a purely mathematical straightaway in front of us by the end of this coming week.

This coming Wednesday we'll take another look at matrix inverses. Given the importance the geometric interpretation plays in a number of the applications we'll consider later on in the course (and that these folks'll consider throughout their careers!), I want to make sure everyone's got them down. Giving another day to inverses has the added bonus of allowing those who are struggling with the reading to get caught up.

In each of his first two journal entries, one of my atmospheric science students threw down the gauntlet, demanding to know why I'd yet to bring out any atmos applications, given that 3/11 of the class are ATMS majors. In answer to his challenge, I insisted that most of the anywhere-close-to-realistic applications of linear algebra to the atmospheric sciences are too complex to use as in-class examples. I felt this answer was pretty lame, though, so I hit the library yesterday afternoon between classes and checked out three texts on numerical weather prediction and linear climatic models, and spent a few hours early this afternoon slogging through a chapter or two of one of them, learning about matrix methods in airmass modeling. Although the physical equations governing the models are indeed complicated ones, if they're treated as black boxes, there are reasonably simple applications involving as few as four equations which might be workable in class. I'll have to have a crack at it. (To my challenger, if you're reading this: howzabout them apples?)

Okay, I've had more to say than I'd thought I would. Maggie'll be calling soon, to get a ride home from work. I'd best be going.

She's probably right: I'm overthinking this course. But I'd rather overthink than underthink.

I think.

1 comment:

Claire said...

I just wanted to leave a message and thank you for your help and support that you offered all of us tonight! I also appreciate all of the assistance and encouragement you've given me personally when I ask for your help. It has definitely helped me, in terms of grasping the subjects and feeling confident to work on the problems. Thanks for your hard work to make this class exciting and interactive!