Thursday, March 16, 2006

Making an Easy Exam Hard

Exam tomorrow in calculus. The exam covers the rules of differentiation -- what really should be the easiest material in the course. Unfortunately for my calculus students:
  1. Few of their high school calculus courses required them to actually learn the derivatives of the trig functions; fewer still required the derivatives of inverse trig functions. Implicit differentiation and logarithmic differentiation are also new to most of my students. They're all on the exam.

  2. By Friday they're worn out from the week, especially from staying up too late too many nights. Add to this that the exam is at 8am.

  3. There was an engineering problem set due this week and an engineering exam tomorrow.

  4. Not only is it a Friday (with two tests!), but it is the Friday before spring break.

  5. Spring fever.

  6. Students who are neither Irish nor Catholic are already practicing to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.

  7. Our basketball team is playing in the NCAA tournament. I don't really care what happens during most of the tournament, as the bulk of it takes place over spring break. However, if you could cheer for our opponents enough so that we don't make the Final Four, it would help many of our students do better in math class.