Friday, January 13, 2006

Teaching My Honors Seminar

Two days in and I feel like I'm slowly drowning in my cryptology course. I've lost a student: down from 13 to 12, and I don't want to lose any more. I wish I knew what they wanted; I don't really have an agenda here, and I'd be happy to give them what they wanted if I knew what it was.

The first challenge comes with knowing what their backgrounds are. Smart kids, all of them. Some of them have taken our honors calculus sequence and are majoring in engineering. Others have taken less rigorous math courses designed to prepare them for the needs of specific majors, like business. The math at this point is rather foundational: things like one-to-one functions. It's something that they've all seen before, but do they understand it?

The only real guidelines that I was given by the program hosting this course is that it needs to be interdisciplinary and that it can't be taught as a lecture. Next week I'm having my students do presentations on the background material. But how interdisciplinary do they want the class to be? How much do they want to discuss?

And since these are honors students, I'm worried that they're likely to drop the course rather than tell me what it is that they want.