Tuesday, February 05, 2008

In Which I Try to Remember What It's Like to Be a Student

So I'm taking this CS class. For the most part, it's OK. I have some quibbles -- like how there shouldn't be 404 links to the homework solutions on the course website (there should either be links that work or else no links). But, for the most part, it's a reasonable upper-division course. Seems to take up less time from my life than the upper-level math classes that I took as an undergrad, but there are probably a lot of reasons for that. One, I don't know how much the workload should vary from math to CS. Two, I'm wiser now (but one could argue that after my head injury I might not be as smart). Three, this is not the Ivy League.

In any event, I have a question about two of the homework problems. The homework problems are released via the course web page in the middle of the night on the border between Thursday and Friday (somewhere around 3am, it seems) and they are due Thursday in class. The professor has no scheduled office hours, and the TAs have office hours scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday afternoon, Thursday right before class, and Thursday after class.

So here I am in the CS building stalking one of the TAs. I went to his office, and he wasn't there. The other students in the office said that they haven't seen him, and that he's always late to his office hours because he has something to do right before his office hours.

Without a steady access to office hours, I'm not sure what I'm going to do. That was my MO as an undergrad. Work on the problems until I couldn't do any more and then hassle people in office hours until I understood the rest.

In other news, I may have to figure out this thing called "studying." I see undergraduates all over the place with decks of flashcards and all that, doing this studying thing. I've never really gotten the hang of it. Back when I was an undergrad, in my intro-level courses I read the text book the day before the exam. In my upper level math and physics classes I knew how to do the problems from doing the homework. Most of my other classes had no exams (just papers). When I was in grad school it was much the same thing. From doing the homework, I knew how to do the problems, so I didn't have to study. (Or, in the case of Complex Analysis, from not doing the homework, I didn't know how to do the problems, earning me a B-.) I didn't really study for my quals either. For algebra, I knew the material from taking the course. For complex, I spent the summer doing every single problem from every old qual and hassling every analyst I could find (good thing I had a summer job working with mathematicians).

Seems like I'm going to need some new strategies.