Sunday, May 01, 2011

MATH 280 exams, revisited

A couple of posts back, I reprinted the final question on my MATH 280 students' final exam. In asking them to reflect on the course and find something worth their whiles in all that we've done together this semester, I had hoped that the students would fulfill several beneficial purposes:

1. They would notice connections and correspondences between disparate ideas we've studied, which they didn't notice before.

2. They would take the time to generate some questions of their own about the course ideas more intriguing to them.

3. They would get a bit more experience in communicating mathematical ideas in relatively informal (and non-technical) terminology. (After all, I wasn't asking them for proofs, just conversation.)

4. They would gain a sense of accomplishment in recognizing just how much we've studied this semester.

5. They would give me guidance for designing future iterations of this course by indicating to me which topics they found most interesting, most challenging, and most relevant.

The students did all of those things, and in composing a page or two in response to each of their responses to this question, I've been able to extend our conversation about ideas mathematical well beyond the time frame of the course. The semester's now over for this class, but I have a hunch that a good number of the students will spend some time over the summer following up on some of the ideas they found most interesting about the course.

I am definitely going to include this kind of exercise on every final exam from now on.

We'll see in a couple of days how my Calc II students' final portfolios come together: will it see a similar success, or a more meager one? Stay tuned...

...incidentally, my next post on this blog will be my 500th. After nearly five years of blogging on my teaching, it's come to this. If you're a regular reader (or even just a casual one), please let me know in the comments: what would you like to see me blog about in #500? And what would you like me to make of this space in the next 500 posts? Do tell!

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