Monday, August 18, 2014

Day One...Again...

Though I've been teaching at the college level for 15 years now, I've never been able to shake those first-day jitters. I have, however, gotten better at managing them and overcoming them and even having fun in the process.

This morning I taught my first Calc I class in...three years, I think? I believe this is the longest I've gone without teaching Calc I since I started teaching in grad school 15 years ago. That remove from the Calc I classroom, I believe, will help me come back to the subject with excitement and an authentic sense of novelty. I'm looking forward to a new format (for me), flipping the classroom and using computer-graded problem sets to give students practice in the basic computations they'll need to know.

Today we spent some time getting to know one another and reviewing some of the mathematical ideas leading up to calculus. I ended class by asking the students to write down (anonymously) any questions they might have about our class at this time...or if they had no questions, just to draw a smiley face.

Their questions, and my answers, are below, in no order other than the order I picked them up:

What's your biggest pet-peeve with your students? Disengagement. It really bugs me when students check out. Regardless of your skill level, give it some effort, please: we all have something we can give to the class, and we all have something we can take away.

Could we brush over some of the topics that were written on the board today, because even if I learned them, I need a little bit of remembering? Though we won't do much formal review in this class, we will do a lot of "just-in-time" review, meaning that as needed we'll brush up on important topics (e.g., trig identities, rules for exponents, factoring methods, etc.) when they come up. If you'd like more help, the Math Lab (located on the third floor of Robinson Hall) has many more resources and assistants who can help you, and you can always sign up with a private tutor. (You can find information about tutors from the Math Lab, too.)

I recently purchased a new Chromebook. Do you think all those softwares will be able to get on it? I'm assuming you're referring to Mathematica and LaTeX. I'm not sure about this, but it's a great question. I believe if you run a flavor of Linux as your OS on the Chromebook you should be able to find both of these applications by visiting the websites I've linked to on the class website. If you run the standard Chrome OS, though, I'm not sure. I'll look into this.

If we want to practice/review some old (algebra or similar) concepts, is there a site for problems? Good question. I believe the Math Lab staff can point you in the direction of some good texts and e-resources for review. Visit them!

Are there any other calc tutors other than the Math Lab? You can sign up with a private tutor, a list of whom is available by visiting the Math Lab.

Explain what the "lab" section of the class is. For arcane bureaucratic reasons, the department must differentiate between the "standard" class and the "lab," but besides the difference in time and place, there's no other distinction. We'll do many of the same things on all days. Just show up, relax, and have fun!

Can I eat breakfast in class? Yup. No worries! Just try not to spill anything or eat too loudly.

What is the meaning of life? Dunno. I missed that day.


Q: What is beauty? What is truth? A: Type "graph " into Wolfram Alpha. I'll get on this at once and report back.

Ready for Calc! :)

How many chapters will be covered? We'll discuss the information addressed by the first five chapters of the textbook. I should point out, though, that I despise the term "cover" in reference to education. It corresponds to a very antiquated notion of pedagogy, in which the teacher "covers" material by talking about it in front of the students, thereby absolving the teacher of all guilt in case the students do poorly on an exam. "I can't believe they did so poorly on this question...we covered it in class!"

Is most of the reading done in class or not? Not. You will be responsible for reading the textbook on your own time. I would guess that a somewhat careful reading of most sections should take you about an hour, and we'll discuss roughly two or three sections per week. You do the math!


Can we review trigonometry? Pre-cal was a long time ago... See my comment above about "just-in-time" review. We'll definitely review trig and other tricky concepts as needed, when needed.

Ready for calc!

It's gonna be a good class, folks.


Bret Benesh said...

I recommend using or for using LaTeX on a Chromebook. These are web-based, so they work with the standard Chrome OS.

DocTurtle said...

Bret, Good to hear from you! And thanks for the advice. I won't be doing any in-class demos using Sage, so that might be a little wonky, but I can always point them at Wolfram Alpha. I appreciate the tip on LaTeX, though. I've seen writelatex used before, and it seems pretty groovy.