Wednesday, October 06, 2010

What a difference a day makes

Today was much better than yesterday: much less stressful, much more fun.

I had a blast in all of my classes, working heavily with splines in both Linear and Calc I: it's lovely to find a project that's meaningful to both groups of students! The Linear students are learning how splines are actually constructed and investigating algorithms for building arbitrarily complicated cubic splines...the Calc I students too are going to be able to get in on the action when they look into the construction of some very simple quadratic splines in a week or so. It's all spiraled out of a question a Calc I student posed to me a week ago regarding the "interpolation" problem set I'd given them. How wonderful that such good ideas come from working with students!

Today I also managed to find something about which my second section students are delighted to talk: designing their own grading scales. Even the shyer students were happy to speak up when it came time to ask them whether quizzes should count for 5% or 10% of their overall grade. After ten or twelve minutes of debating the issue, both sections decided upon tentative weighting schemes for their grades:

Section 1
Homework: 35%
Quizzes: 5%
Projects: 25%
Midterms: 25% (total)
Final: 10%

Section 2
Homework: 20%
Quizzes: 10%
Projects: 25%
Midterms: 25% (total)
Final: 20%

The first section's scheme is closer to the one I would typically use (back when I assigned the weights myself), but the second section's scheme is within acceptable tolerance. I can hang.

We'll see how they work out; they were well-arrived-at (after a good deal of earnest give-and-take which considered amount work, locus of learning, revisability, ease, and so forth). I'm always impressed with the students' maturity when they're trusted to make decisions that affect them meaningfully. I'm glad that they don't often abuse the trust I give to them.

Yes, it's been a good day.

Before I call it a night, my thanks must go to my colleague Dolores (and her husband Ken), for driving all the way down from Virginia to give a lovely MATH 480 Senior Seminar talk on Catalan numbers. Thanks, Dolores! Very well received! We'll have to have you down again sometime soon.

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