Monday, April 11, 2011

Home stretch

We've got two weeks of classes to go, including 2 meetings of MATH 480, 4 meetings of Ethnomathematics, 6 of MATH 280, and 8 of Calc II. I can't believe we're here already! This semester's gone faster than any I can recall, and it's left us all stressed and strained.

This past week's conference gave me a much-needed break, and I honestly feel much more on top of things now than I did a week ago. I felt much more relaxed going into both of my classes today, especially given that I'm feeling pretty good about where my Calc II and 280 classes are right now.

As this semester's been so dramatically abbreviated (it's almost two weeks shorter than spring semester of last year, for instance, after snow days are factored in), I've spent no small amount of time this term stressing out over how much I'd be able to "get through" in my classes. I fear MATH 280's suffered a little bit because of this, and I'm going to have to trim back on the "special topics" I like to include at the end, just to get the bare minimum in. Ditto Calc II: bye-bye differential equations, hello Taylor series; the latter I deem indispensable, the former not so much.

Despite the frustration I've felt at gettin' it done, so to speak, I'm feeling better about where we are. I think at this point I've just got an (pardon my language) "ah-fuck-it" attitude about the term. By that I don't mean that I'm cutting the students loose and letting them drift in the wind; nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, I'm relaxing my expectations for the courses and focusing on making sure every last student understands fully every last thing we work on together in these closing weeks. If that means we have to cut a quiz here or modify an assignment there, so be it. I want us all on the same page as we cross the finish line.

Students: if you're in one of my classes and you're reading this, you can help me out immensely by responding in the comments to this post. Please take five minutes to write back to me there, indicating one thing you'd like to see happen in your course before the semester's up that'll help you make the most out of our remaining time together. Tell me which class you're in (anonymously, if you'd prefer), and let me know what one thing we can do to help each other across the finish line.


Anonymous said...

Allow some extra credit opportunity to arise in Calc II, please! I know some may not need it, but others will definitely take advantage of the extra points.

Sabine M said...

I have really enjoyed our 280 class this semester. Despite the snow days messing everything up, I really feel you know our class and what we are capable of during crunch time. I think a few more homeworks and a moderately difficult final exam and we should be set-no more chapter writing though!

Sorry if you wanted more specifics. Let me know if I should elaborate on any points!

Anonymous said...

For the 280 class, it may be practical to make the take-home final due the Monday after our scheduled exam day (i.e. 29 April), such that on this day helpful hints and tips may be provided for anyone still having difficulties (e.g. a "Q & Q" could be held or something of the like), and a weekend is given for any final revisions.

Tyler H said...

Hey, Calc II student here. I'm personally fine with the work load we have right now, and what it looks like it's going to be... You're doing a great job. We do get a study guide for the final, though, yes?
Also... if we're going to be skipping differential equations entirely, I think it would be cool if we could at least get some sort of glimpse at it in class and we could chat with you at some other time about them if we so choose.

Nick said...

I'm fine with what we've been taught so far in Calc II, he only request I have is that you at least briefly go over/ or tell us all of the topics you won't be covering in class that is usually covered in this course.

Joshua L. [Math 280, Adventurer] said...

This has been a crammed semester, Agreed. Stressful, Agreed. Glad you are feeling better too by the way, as am I. This past weekend was a nice one.

Well, I think your plan has been, and continues to be, very nice. Don't stress. You gotta do what you gotta do with the time allotted. Everything you have done has taught myself, and the entire gynormous class, a great deal about proofs. As you know in seeing all of our work progress so much over the past few months.

I did like the collaborative final exam because I spend more time actually discussing this class and learning about it than if I am unable to speak with my peers. I feel with your guidance and the group aspect of the latter-part of the semester I've learned way more than a traditional class could of ever taught me, even with more time.

A one-time revision of the final exam is a nice idea. To encapsulate the understanding we gathered throughout the semester, and confirm it. Having a debriefing session, so to speak, with a final exam revisions would really fine-tune all aspects of the course in my eyes.

Other than that... all I can really say is keep doing what you are doing. It's great. I'm not giving up yet, so I don't expect you to either =)


Anonymous said...

I feel very good about this semester. I do also feel, however, that I may not have gotten as much practice as I need to to last the summer and begin calc III in the fall. Would it be possible to have one final sheet of work (mayhaps an in class assignment? extra credit as an anonymous has already suggested) just to see what still needs to be clarified? I'd like to walk away feeling confident going into calc III and I fully appreciate all the work you have put in to our class this semester. (so thanks) -Anisa

Anonymous said...

Everyone loves extra credit, regardless of class. Helps to take an edge off the stress of finals.

Kyle J Silva said...

Kyle from 280, whoop whoop.

long time listener, first time caller!

I have been perfectly fine with the pace of the class all semester, and once we cut (we did cut, right?) the textbook project, the workload was downgraded from overwhelming to perfectly manageable.

We got the last homework today (and it is not due for two weeks-- more than fair) and I can (safely, I'm sure) assume that we will get adequate time for the final.

Sure the problems are hard, and some can take hours to do, but there are only four on this last homework. I really don't know if anybody is thaaaaat busy right now (though sometimes it really feels like it, I know).

With all the time we have to do these assignments, there isn't any reason that students with even the slightest bit of responsibility can't find time between other classes' assignments to do this work. There seems to always be a 280 student up in the lab to help out. If we are trying to cater to the students that wait until the last day or two to do these and then complain... well, I don't think their opinion should carry much weight 'round here.

I really liked the group aspect of the last test. I think I figured out that I really liked it because this is still only my second semester at UNCA, and I am still fairly new to the concept that it is ok to be wrong and that it really is part of the process. Dr. Burger spoke at length about it during the Parson's lectures, and I am really understanding it now.

Before college-level math, there was no wrong-to-be-right for a lot of students (myself included). A concept was explained and then you applied it and moved on. Right is right and wrong is wrong.

Especially before this class I would have found it very hard to believe that I could spend 6 hours on a problem, and that 5 of them would be spent barking up the wrong tree. I then would have found it near-impossible to believe that those five hours were vital to the process.

As far as the group work goes, it helped a lot when every time I found myself up a wrong tree, there seemed to be another student or two up there with me, searching for some sort of elusive coconuts. We then climbed down together and gave each other a boost up the next (for better or worse!).

I feel like the general feeling of the class is that we're going to make it through just fine, and I wouldn't worry too much about us.


Emily said...

I love our Calc 2 class. I don't think I have ever been excited about a math course. I think that since the final is fast approaching, it would be nice to have a breather on projects and homework before the final and allow time to review.
We have done so much that it will be much needed to review stuff we learned at the beginning of the semester.
Keep going Patrick! Its been a great semester.

Josh W. said...

I'm alright where we are both Math280 and Calc. II. You know both the classes better than I do, so you know what each class can or cannot handle. I know it has been a crunch for everyone, and I feel that what is important will be covered. Math280 is far more difficult for me, so maybe an extra credit opportunity when the final exam period is scheduled for?

DocTurtle said...

I'm glad y'all are having a great discussion about our classes right now! I don't want to interrupt, but I wanted to point out that this paragraph Kyle wrote:

"Especially before this class I would have found it very hard to believe that I could spend 6 hours on a problem, and that 5 of them would be spent barking up the wrong tree. I then would have found it near-impossible to believe that those five hours were vital to the process." one of the best I've ever seen written about learning mathematics. Seriously. That's a wonderful lesson learned! I'm honored to be your instructor in this course!

Anonymous said...

Math 280 student here! I have loved the class from beginning to now. I think I would personally benefit most by not writing any more chapter topics and focusing on homework and exams. Although, I like the idea of having some finished nice thing to look back on math 280 by, I really do believe I learn much more on the homeworks even though they sometimes seem ominous! (-:

Taylor Sluder said...

Calc 2 --
As a student who hasn't been in a math class in almost three years, you've done an amazing job of thoroughly discussing and explaining every concept. My only request is that you don't let the stress get to you. I can't explain how important this is and how much it is truly appreciated. And some extra credit opportunities would be great! :)

Mark Smathers said...

Well, where can I start? First of all I totally agree that this semester has been a bear, and I mean a grizzly!!!! I like to think of myself as a mathematically minded individual. That is until I encountered 280. In my opinion this is the hardest math course I have ever taken. However, I couldn’t imagine how hard it would be if another instructor was guiding the class room. Patrick, you always seem to be on the student’s level. I know you have limitations and requirements you have to meet, but kudos to your pace of the course.
It could be A LOT harder. That said, I am still struggling with 280, and in my opinion a total review would be nice. For those of you who don’t know me or my schedule, I go to class during the day and work fulltime from 4pm-12am, Get up at 7am and do it again.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining or asking for pity, this is my choice!
I love mathematics and wish I would have jumped at it sooner. The only thing I don’t like is the short period of time I have to work on HW (usually Sat and Sun). I feel that is a large contributor to my struggles.

Anyway, enough about me. As far as cal II I feel pretty good. 280 I sure would like a review and a variety of problems. Patrick, keep it up, if anyone else were teaching these courses I probably would have a more negative opinion about them.

Mark Smathers

Unknown said...

I have enjoyed and learned a lot in 280, even with the abbreviated semester. I believe the last homework assignment and final exam will be enough to finish out the semester strong without sending us over the edge.

Meghan Boutwell said...

Meghan Boutwell

Patrick I'll admit 280 has caused me a lot of soul searching this semester. I found myself wondering why wasn't I grasping this? Should
I being going on to high level math? I felt incapable. But not in any way shape or form because I wasn't learning from you.

You know I ask questions. I'm not afraid. I sat in class, listened and questioned. I felt like I was learning so much. Then when it came time to connect the class content to the homework or the test I blanked.

I had quite the semester too. But I think that's why I love learning from you Patrick. I think you work harder than anyone I've ever known and that's saying something if you knew my dad. I admire work ethic which is why no matter how many times I wanted to cry in your office I wasn't going to. I manned up and "Patricked", or worked, my ass off. I think you inspire more hard work out of people. You kept your hopes high and I kept my head up.

I have had an interesting semester overall. But 280 has made me learn a lot about math and myself. I realized all I can do is try and write down what makes sense to me. Then I keep changing my understanding until it's right. That's all I can do. I appreciate 280 because it makes me appreciate the art in math. Baby steps. Baby steps

Dawn said...

I feel overwhelmed by the workload, but have all semester. Crunch time for most people means multiple papers and projects due on top of studying for finals. Maybe giving out the final a few days early would be helpful.

All and all, I have enjoyed the class.

Sam said...

I feel that we have discussed a lot this semester. I hate that we are missing much more though. It would be nice to have a brief overview of what we are missing. Perhaps maybe 15min of class going over topics that we are unable to cover, just to briefly give us an idea of what we are missing?
Through all the stress that you have been under, I believe our Calc 2 class has been great. I thought you were joking at the end of Calc 1 about how you are more crazier in Calc 2, lol. you have really made it fun and I hate more then anything just to be late for your class! I enjoyed being with you and my classmates through our adventure through Calc 1 and Calc 2. I will of course wait till spring to take Calc 3 :)
Oh, I do have one request though. If it is at all possible, could we get a homework assignment (or extra credit, whichever is best to your idea)that goes over a little bit of everything we have gone over this semester? Kind of like a review? I think that would be much helpful to recap everything.
Thank you!
I don't know what I am going to do this summer without you and this class!! It has definitely made my first year here at Asheville worth it all :)

Anonymous said...

Extra credit WOULD be nice for Calc II...

Elliot Williams said...

I think it would be cool if you gave us a REALLY hard problem that incorporates a lot of the different aspects of what we have learned this semester. One of those problems that makes you feel AMAZING when you have completed it after like 3 hours of brain-melting work! Maybe this could be the extra credit people are asking for? but maybe for something little, like dropping the lowest HW grade? (IDK if that is worth the work that you would have to put into making the problem). Calc II has really been exciting this year!!! I am looking forward to my 3 math classes next semester :) even though none are with you :'(

Rachel Cook said...

I agree with what Meghan said... 280 has been a challenge for me this semester. I have had moments where I felt lost, but you have been so willing and available for extra help that I have been able to keep up with the work. I honestly feel that if I can make it through this class, that I will be able to succeed in the rest of my required math classes.
All semester I have been telling my parents (who are also teachers) about your teaching methods. I think that it is great that you require us to apply our knowledge, because only then will we actually learn something. My dad has been very interested in your teaching style; it is similar to how he tries to model his lessons.
Thank you for all of your hard work this semester; it is paying off.
As for calc II, I feel that our class is doing well. No complaints from me...


Anonymous said...

Patrick, you are seriously an amazing teacher! I have learned so much in 280 this semester. You truly care for your students, and want us to learn (versus us getting good grades). This semester has been great, although the last few weeks have been stressful. I think some things that would relieve some stress for these last few weeks would allow us to work with other 280 students on the last exam. I really do learn more when I can bounce ideas off others, and if I am not understanding something having others to help me understand has helped me to learn so much! Revisions also help me tremendously.

Anonymous said...

I love you Calc II class! I would love to have fewer assignments in the next couple of weeks in order to have more time to study for exams. I feel that it would be more effective to have more study time rather than do more assignments.

alg said...

280 kiddo here. i have to say you have done a magnificent job adjusting the schedules accordingly. like everyone else has said, you take your students' learning and respect into consideration.

i'm so totally glad we cut the textbook thing. it may have been a good thing, but with the class size, it's hard to get 5-6 people together on one or two nights a week to write the thing, and then again to edit it. i would try it again in a smaller class size.

the homeworks lately have been "fun" and it's been nice to meet and greet my fellow classmates. i'm not usually one to mingle and seek help from others. and being a newly declared major, i didn't know anyone coming into this class (other than a select few). so i've enjoyed getting to know the lovely people who are eager to meet and help me. they are quite a friendly bunch.

as for the exams, i feel like some of the questions were a little vague; i didn't quite know what you were asking for, or how you wanted it displayed? and it's been hard with you being gone for the past 4-5 weeks. you had always been available before. i understand that these were prior obligations and i personally feel honored that you are such a renowned mathematician and professor, so no hard feelings what-so-ever.

i appreciate all the help you give, in class and during office hours. you are truly a great professor. thanks a bunch.

oh and thanks for talking me into going to the math480 student talks; they've been awesome!

Joshua said...

umm... A idea would be a Q and A session where we ask question, It would be a great review. possible a small extra credit threw in to entice people to come with a question. just a idea. but i would really like to see some sort of review to help things "stick".

Thanks for caring about your students and not finishing the agenda. It means alot to us students.

A ((∫(b))(+^2)) job done as a teacher.

(HINT: what comes before b?)

Evan Edwards said...

aaaarg, so I just typed this long elaborate comment and then stupid blogger gave me an error message, lets hope it doesn't happen again. The gist of what I was trying to say was that there were two things would be nice at the end of this semester in 280: a review session and an off campus activity of some sort.

The review session because since this class was so well structured, each section building of the previous ones, I noticed that I sometimes ended up leaning on intuitive definitions that I had become accustomed to rather than the rigorous mathematical definition that I should have kept in mind. I found myself having to go back to basics so often, and it helped me in the end, but before going on to higher level classes, I think it would be great to do a whirlwind 280 review session (proofs to relations in 50 minutes) to remind us of the rigorous definitions of everything that we did this taxing semester.

The off campus thing because I know that, at least for myself, I did not have as many opportunities to get to know the people in class because of time restraints, &c. It wouldn't have to be anything extravagant, but I think it would be great to get to meet some of the folks who I've struggled alongside this crazy semester. Maybe something like a big picnic, or a soda/beer/pizza at APBC or Mellow Mushroom (if we have many other vegans in our midst), or an enormous game of bowling, I don't know.

Either way, it was great working with you all, Patrick as well as the class, I wish everyone a great summer and further studies!


Anonymous said...

I am feeling very comfortable with how your Cal 2 class has gone. Honestly, I'm understanding concepts that were completely over my head in Cal 1. I think you've done an excellent job with this semester, and really couldn't feel better about how it has gone. As far as a suggestion, I'm OK with just continuing as usual...I think that you are doing a fantastic job.

-Matthew F.

Ryan E said...

I am pleasantly fine in everything we learned so far this semester. As well, I think the class has been going at a good steady quick pass, it might be hard at times but it works itself out.

I agree with the exam idea that many other people have suggested.
I would say another nice contribution would be some active activities to do with math, like the L game we played a couple weeks back.

Anonymous said...

Calc II has been hard for me this semester due to the fact that I took Calc I two years ago. However with your teaching I feel that everything has fludily come back to memory. I find that because the homework is only due on Friday's, which is no doubt very kind of you, the information doesn't stick with me for as long. Because the practice problems aren't required, I don't find myself doing them. I think that if we were given one or two easy practice problems due every MWF, rather than cramming it on Thursday's or doing it on a Tuesday and forgetting what you've done by Friday, perhaps solving the problems would become a bit more fluid.
As for your teaching, your enthusiasm and energy not only makes learning enjoyable, but funny and exciting at the same time. Ultimately, I think that you have already mastered the goal of any Math teacher, including mine even as a prospective one.

Sophia P said...

For me, both calc II and 280 have been incredible classes. I cannot stress enough how lucky we all are to have you as a professor.
Not gonna lie, extra credit would be nice, in both classes. I'm assuming we won't be able to hand in corrections for calc, and the 280 test will only be a first draft.
You've done an incredibe job with two difficult classes, especially considering how much time got cut. I'm pretty sure if I had a different teacher, I would have just curled up in the fetal position and cried...

Aurelia Baca said...

I'm currently enrolled in that MATH 280 course, and I must state it's been a roughish ride with not being a math major and all. Although, to say the least, I do not think acquiring more mathematically skills would've improved my understanding of the class. It was more so a struggle with the way my brain functions. It is rather difficult for me to have to explain every step I take and for my brain just to wrap around abstract concepts. Every single example you gave made sense whilst going through the steps, however, once I have to work a problem by myself, it's a whole different ball game. I really enjoyed your idea of writing a text book, because my group mates and I were not exactly sure what our second chapter topic meant 100%, so writing a chapter on it thoroughly cleared a lot of misconceptions up. The committee problems was a brilliant idea as well, especially if one was not sure how to work a problem.

As for the final exam, I certainly would like it to be a take home, and group effort.

On a final note, I'm fairly certain there were things I could've done to help me better understand the material, however, it's not so much "laziness" as it is I'm just busy. Plain and simple. I am not singling Atmospheric Science majors as the only busy bodies on campus, just stating that some of them, like myself, are involved in much more than the "minimum requirement." In conclusion, I enjoy your teaching style very much. I admire your enthusiasm, and I can say with confidence, if another professor was teaching this course, I would have failed miserably....

Much thanks!

-Aurelia Baca

Brad Grady said...

I know in class today you talked about doing a Jeopardy review, which will help people to go over older information, but I feel it may not be in depth enough for everyone. Most likely a question will be put up and the people that know that particular topic will solve it quickly and once the problem is solved we'll go on to the next question without much time to elaborate and have students ask questions if they are still confused. I know there aren't many homework sets left to incorporate review questions, but maybe you could give an optional homework set that is purely review that way people that need extra time to figure problems out won't have to worry about the competitiveness of a Jeopardy game. I still think Jeopardy is still a good idea ;)

Daniel Finney said...

Wow, this has really been a great semester and I really have enjoyed having you as a teacher Patrick. 280 is progressing along very well and I am happy with my progress in the class. Your enthusiasm and the close nittedness of the Math dept has definitely kept me going and instilled the drive to complete my degree. EC is always appreciated :)!!

Didi said...

Calc II student here--I'm commenting on this a little late, but I would have suggested extra credit before, so I'm glad you made that happen. I would appreciate an opportunity to review all the material again, whether that comes with the extra credit (haven't looked over it yet), the exam, or a review before the exam (which would be nice). Otherwise, I think you are doing a wonderful job. Your teaching style has really worked for me, helping me stay engaged and on top of the material. One piece of advice I would add is: don't get discouraged! From your posts, it seems you feel less fulfilled by teaching than usual, but you have still managed to be my favorite professor this semester, so you must be doing something right. Keep your chin up and so will we. And thanks!

Unknown said...

280 has been great. We've worked hard and learned a lot. You've worked harder and we appreciate it.

On additional topics, recursion might be useful. I've always had difficulty with recursive algorithms so any insight there would be good. Anything that would be good preparation for Abstract Algebra or Real Analysis would be welcome.

Erin said...

I think we would really benefit from some type of review before the final exam in Calc II. I don't know about everyone else, but I eventually will forget things unless I review them occasionally and it would be a nice way to end the class before the final exam.

And I feel so lucky that I've had the chance to be in both your Calc I and II classes. Really Dr. Bahls, having you as my professor for my entire freshman year has been awesome! I never realized that after taking Calc I that I would actually learn to like math because we've always had such a hate-hate relationship. I can't thank you enough for teaching - I never realized that one teacher could change my perspective on so many things! :D

Anonymous said...

Thank you for being able to help me with my communication glitch. It was one of the roughest subjects I've ever taken, with a thrusting bout of exposure but I feel this class has made me even stronger in being able to communicate my questions and has added to my experience. I hope you can continue enlightening your future students with your musicality and robustness in your professing. NEVER let that die. The jeopardy and bowling ideas I think are golden for the finish.