Friday, February 23, 2007

The Week Ends With Another Exam

Gave an exam in my calculus class on Thursday and an exam in the gen-ed class today.

While the calculus class is slipping a bit, I have the nagging suspicion that I'm making the exams a bit too easy. Or maybe they really do know calculus? It's hard to tell, since I'm used to there being a significant contingent that doesn't do the work. That's what makes this class different; they do the assigned work. While analyzing my spreadsheet I looked at a linear model predicting course average as a function of number of homeworks turned in. My model predicts: course average = 2.4 * number of homeworks turned in + 50. The regression coefficient r was .8.

The other class... I really don't know what to do about them. There are 36 students remaining in the class. I started with 38 but two passing students dropped. One because he didn't want to do the work and one for mysterious reasons that she didn't share with me, but perhaps because I wasn't sufficiently sympathetic when she left town for a week to visit her ailing grandmother. (Wrote I, in response to her long and emotional email, "I hope that everything turns out OK with your grandmother. We can sort out the details when you get back." I haven't heard from her since, and she has disappeared from my online roster.) Of the 36 students, seven did not take the exam. Sure, there were the usual suspects missing, like the two students who have never been to class and the one who's only been there twice. Also missing was a guy who missed the first exam and who told me that he really needs to pass this class this time. A student on a revenue-producing sport didn't take the exam. Someone with a mysterious and vague excuse wasn't there. The last of the missing students arrived at a full sprint, out of breath, bloodshot eyes, and smelling of beer just a few minutes before the end of the exam. Some crazy story about an alarm clock.

At least the exam was easy on us all. About half of the points were from multiple-guess questions of one type or another. As to be expected, way too many students trusted their calculators when trying to determine whether numbers were rational or irrational. They claimed that 17/49 was irrational; they answered "true" to the true/false question about whether the square root of two equals 114243/80782. At least they got the question right about there being different sizes of infinity. The students who do their work and study did well; the rest of them don't care.