Monday, April 04, 2005

My Students Are So Smart

It's taken them long enough. We're in the 13th calendar week (11th academic week) of the semester, and the gen-ed freshmen are finally catching on. Well, most of them have: there is a small contingent who have either stopped coming or who have applied for late withdrawals. But most of the rest of them seem to be finally getting it.

As such, there are few amusing responses to report from this exam. A few silly comments here and there (something about the Klein bottle being "the offspring of the Möbius strip" and one student used V-E+F=2 to solve and open-ended problem and declared, "The Euler characteristic strikes again!"), but no wild guesses that rewrite mathematics.

This is one of the reasons that I love teaching this class. With our well-enforced placement, a well-trained African Grey parrot could teach our calculus students (real calculus -- not business calc) how to maximize the volume of the box. While I have taken the freshmen with the lowest placement scores and who have no plans to enter a quantitative major, and I have taught them how to respond to open-ended mathematical questions and how to defend their answers. If I had them for three more semesters, I bet you that I could have them as good at abstract algebra as many of our math majors.

We will see if this optimism sticks when I come back tomorrow to grade their projects. (And we will see how well my "no plagiarism" talk sunk in -- instead of coming at it from the "plagiarism is wrong" point of view, I explained it as, "I catch so many plagiarists that I'm on a first name basis with the director of Student Judicial Affairs.") I'm sort of sad that so many of them chose to write papers instead of doing something more creative, but from a logistical standpoint, papers are easier to grade at the cafe.