Thursday, September 27, 2007

More Often Than Not I Love Honors Students

I'm fortunate to be teaching TWO honors classes this semester. One is the interdisciplinary seminar where I get to teach whatever I want about anything in the whole wide world. The other is a math class. It's the honors version of our gen-ed class. So this means that I get to teach whatever I want just as long as it's about math.

The regular gen-ed class is for students whose major does not require any math whatsoever (like English, History, etc.). It's also designed to be a college-level math class for students who have zero skill at algebra. And if you're doing college level math and you can't calculate, well, then you're going to be conjecturing and proving and whatnot. If you're incapable of the background necessary to succeed in calculus, then you're in for a semester of learning how to make a logical argument stick together. We don't offer college credit for intermediate algebra. Sorry!

The honors gen-ed class is awesome to teach. The students are so open-minded! We flit from topic to topic as it catches my interest. We spent a while on algebraic number theory. Then we talked about the Pythagorean Theorem. Now we're talking about rational vs. irrational numbers, from which I'm transitioning into showing that there are different sizes of infinity. From there I'll hit Cantor's powerset theorem. After that I'm thinking maybe some graph theory, maybe the Platonic Solids, maybe the Shape of Space stuff. Perhaps cake-cutting (fair division). I can do whatever I want as long as it's math!

Some of them turn in such amazing work. Here we have freshmen who have never taken a decent math class in their lives, and they are now writing proofs that are so nice that I can hardly stand to grade them. Typed up. With diagrams. The type of work that you'd hope that math majors would produce.

I have to grade them tonight, however, so that I can turn these back, assign more fabulous problems, and delight in their amazing work.