Sunday, January 29, 2006

Students to Whom I Can Teach Calculus

  1. The ones who pretty much have all the prerequisite knowledge for the class and who are mature enough to take responsibility for their learning. These students will do more problems if they need to do more problems. They will ask questions when they are confused. This is the standard model of student that we are assuming we should have in class when we complain about the rest, "College students are adults! I shouldn't need to spoon feed them the material or hold their hands!" I don't have time to care whether these students are intrinsically motivated by a desire to learn calculus or extrinsically motivated by a desire for good grades. As long as I run class in a fair and appropriate manner, these students do well and don't complain.

  2. The ones who really, really, really want to learn calculus (despite major holes in their prerequisite knowledge) and who have the time to devote to this endeavor. Even if you don't remember much trigonometry and your knowledge of fractions is shaky, if you come to every single office hour and do all the extra problem that I tell you to do (including the ones from chapter 1 and the appendices), then you will learn calculus. There aren't many of these students; this requires the student to work harder at the class than I do.

  3. The calculus groupies. They are more interested in receiving positive attention from me than they are in calculus; I will only give them positive attention when they demonstrate that they are trying to learn calculus. These students will stop by my office, will try to engage me in conversation after class, will send me emails. I continually turn the focus back to calculus. Do well on a quiz, and I will write an encouraging note. These students need to be carefully managed; sometimes they will only ask questions about things that they can mostly do and will not ask about things where they are completely confused.