Thursday, November 09, 2006

It's that time again

Judging by my relative reticence lately, you've probably come to the correct conclusion that things have been


around here the past week or so. The next time I agree to give three talks in three weeks, please shoot me. Although I'm excited about my travels, I'm not looking forward to the busy-ness next week will bring (how do my soccer students do it?): Wednesday sees me heading out to Murfreesboro, Tennessee to give a research talk in the colloquium series at Middle Tennessee State University, and after driving home on Thursday morning, we find ourselves (me 'n' the missus) flying up to Boston on Thursday night so's I can hit the folks at Harvard with the 411 on how our class is run. Many thanks go to...oh, what name have I given you in past posts?...let's just say many thanks go to Bedelia, one of my bestest friends and my host while up in Cambridge.

I asked the 365 folks to use their most recent journal entries to let me know anything they'd like me to pass on to the Harvard audience, beginning with the prompt, "As you all know, I will be traveling to Boston in a week and a half to speak on the style of study we have undertaken in this class. Please include in your journals anything about this class (good, bad, ugly, or beautiful) you would like the folks up at Harvard to hear about." The responses have been, as far as I can tell, honest and heartfelt. It warms me to know that these hard-working people feel comfortable expressing not just the good but also the bad. I hope to put together a packet of all of their comments (unabridged, unexpurgated) to share with interested parties in Cambridge.

I've also decided how I'm going to begin my presentation at Harvard...but to make sure Bedelia doesn't spill the beans (she reads this blog semiregularly, I believe), I'm not going to say anything about it...

Meanwhile, the course moves onward apace. We've spent several classes now on eigenvalues and eigenvectors, since these are by far my favorite concepts in linear algebra, and, I believe, among the most useful. We've looked at eigenstuff from a number of points of view, including computational, geometric, and algebraic. We've looked at applications to win/loss records, traffic flow, crystal structure, and, most recently, heat flow. Tomorrow we'll work at diagonalizing a discrete time model for heat transfer in a one-dimensional rod. (Doncha wish you were in this class?)

On Monday I handed out the second take-home exam. I underwent a protracted internal deliberation regarding the format of this second exam, and though at one time I considered making this second exam in-class, when I found that the overwhelming portion of the class preferred to see another out-of-class exam, provided they were given a bit more time, I went with another take-home test. (I feel such tests are substantially more appropriate for our course, anyway.) I feel this exam is a good deal easier than the last in a number of ways: although it's probably longer than the first, it involves more straightforward computation, and is less "theoretical." Already I've noticed fewer tears (on the students' parts as well as my own) and less stress. I think we'll make it through this one okay.

Alas, I must now away and come up with some cool big numbers with which to entertain the Super Saturday kiddies this weekend as we learn to count to infinity...


Anonymous said...

it was easier! longer, but i'd rather take a long easy exam than a short difficult one :)

DocTurtle said...

Cool! My intention was to make it easier, but also not so easy that it was a throw-away.

Listen, All: I know a lot of you had a CRAZY week this week, and I thank you all for your dedication to the cause! From what I've seen of the exams, they look quite good. I look forward to taking a closer look this afternoon.

What say the rest of you regarding the exam? Yes? No? Meh? Bluh? Blarg?