Friday, October 05, 2007

The Second Calculus Exam

On Wednesday we had the second exam in the Calculus Circus. I have no scans for you because I had to grade my question quickly and efficiently so that I could hand the stacks of exams over to the TAs so that I wouldn't need to deal with the logistics of exam-swapping over the weekend. Especially since it's a football weekend, meaning that I don't want to leave the house.

Since the previous exam, all that we've covered has been the product rule, the quotient rule, the chain rule, derivatives of logs and exponentials, and higher order derivatives. Shouldn't be that hard of an exam. It had 20 questions. Fourteen of them were of the form f(x) = some function, find f'(x). Two of them were f(x) = some function, find f''(x) or find f'''(x). The remaining four questions were interpretation problems. I would explain a situation (blood sugar level of a patient t hours after a meal, marginal average cost when producing x widgets, etc) and ask the students to explain a statement like f'(10) = -0.07 in a complete sentence, including units. At least one of the interpretation problems was an assigned homework problem (didn't even change the numbers).

What I have learned is that many, many, many of the students are not doing the homework. They were overconfident because they scored well on the first exam. Maybe they're getting shaky on things that they remember from their so-called calculus classes in high school. I've typed up a very concrete list of things for failing students to do (call your parents and tell them that you're not doing well in calculus, start doing the homework, find a tutor). I won't have the exam stats until next week, but I expect that many of the low grades are going to upset the freshmen who need to maintain their GPAs to keep their scholarships.