Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Two out of three ain't bad

I felt good about yesterday, for the most part. It's always a bit awkward getting back to work after a long weekend (like the one handed us by the Spring Undergraduate Research Symposium last Friday), but neither of my first two classes missed a beat.

As I said before and I'll say again, Newton v. Leibniz came off without a major hitch, and all participants were lively and engaged. Moreover, the 280 folks bounced back from their Homework Set 5 debacle and made real headway into the jungle of equivalence relations. I had a really good time in that class, and I feel a lot was learned.

But Abstract II felt a bit...forced?...flummoxed?...flat?...some other suitable and non-scatological f-word?

Maybe you're all tired, which I can definitely understand. Maybe you're all a bit overwhelmed by the notation and the terminology associated with quotients of polynomial rings and with finite fields, which is admittedly dense. Or maybe, as I suggested in class, it's a combination of spring fever and senioritis (if I'm counting right, 5 of the 13 are graduating in May, with three or four more to follow in December).

Whatever the reason, y'all looked yesterday as though someone had cranked gravity up by a factor of two.

Is there something I can do to get you guys unstuck from this rut?

I tried to slow things down a bit yesterday to make sure we were all on the same page with the current proof, but maybe that's not what's needed.

Maybe we need rather to gun the engine and red-line it down the highway for a class or two, to burn off some of the junk that's cluttered up the engine valves?

Or maybe we just need to have a stock-taking class where we look back over everything we've done and fit it all together?

Maybe we just need another day off, like the one this coming Friday offers while I'm out of town.

Or maybe I just need to bring in donuts again.

Unlike my "younger" classes, I know most of you MATH 462 people read this blog regularly, so I encourage you to comment: what can I do for you right now? Help me lead us out of this quotient-ring quagmire!


"Bertrand" said...

I don't know about everyone else, but I'm tired. I'm graduating this semester and have several classes to worry about:

1) Math 480. Enough said right there, but I'll be done tomorrow, sooner than most.

2) Anth 100. I'm currently reading an ethnography about life in the Peruvian Andes (2-3 chapters due MWF). This class comes right before Abstract II, so I'm code switching from the ritual intoxication of llamas to finite fields.

3) This class.

I have another, Math 352, but there aren't as many out-of-class assignments, so it's easier to stay on top of.

So that's the context.

I'm going to vote on the fast remedy. Let's pour some Liquid Schwartz in the fuel tanks, crank the volume up to 11, and see where we go. If we're not stomping our feet and hootin' 'n' hollerin' about how freakishly awesome the whole thing is, we may be beyond saving (or need donuts. I like donuts).

phillip johnston said...

I agree with Bertrand.
I am exhausted. For me, the economy and some personal stress has caused some added business to my life but things seem a bit harried all around. As much as I am enjoying the quotient ring stuff, perhaps the best thing to do is try and move forward a little faster. I feel like chapter three is the never ending story. With just a three or four more weeks before we start student presentations, it would be interesting to survey some other aspects of Abstract Algebra. Maybe some of the chapter 4 or 6 stuff.
It seems weird to think that I am busy and want to add in new ideas but I feel like we are a little bogged down. Your use of quagmire was apropos.