Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Day Two

What a difference a day makes! Today's languor lies in stark contrast to the tumult that was yesterday. I've had a chance to get caught up on several little nagging tasks in during the free hours in between my "get to know ya" meetings with MATH 280 students. (I've got another meeting in just a few minutes.)

So far they're all professing eager anticipation for what's to come in the course. There's a little trepidation about LaTeX, but that's only natural. One student expressed slight annoyance at having to do a good deal of work in groups, indicating that he's the sort of person who prefers to do everything himself if he knows he's the one who's apt to do it best. (I understand the feeling: I was like that in college, and every now and then I still slip back into that mode.) Thankfully, though, he recognized the importance of collaborative work and seems completely willing to give it a go in our class.

Another benefit of having such a small class is the brevity of the course's "mixing time": suppose, for simplicity, that every group project will involve 3 students. If groups are assigned completely at random each time a group is convened for a group project, in a class of 15 students after a person has served on 5 groups, she or he can expect to have worked with roughly 51% of the people in the class. In a class of 30 students, 5 rounds of service only puts the one student in touch with roughly 29% of her or his classmates, on average. (Yes, I'm enough of a nerd that I just wrote some Mathematica code to generate the desired expected values for arbitrary class size and group size.) Put simply, a student more quickly comes into contact with a greater proportion of her or his class in a class of 15 people.

Not shocking, but it's nice to know that the numbers back it up!

Okay, that's all for today. I'm homeward bound quite soon, but I'm excited to find out what tomorrow holds for me, class-wise.

Oh, and: this is my 300th post!

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