Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Review Sheet

I publish a review sheet before every exam. Like the Angry Professor, I don't publish the answers. If a student shows evidence of having worked on the problems, I will go over the answers with the student. If a student emails or me and asks, "Is the answer to #4 7?" I'll answer yes or no. If a student asks about a problem during recitation class, the TA will go over the problem for the class. But in order to get their precious answers, the student needs to first show some evidence of doing the work.

Besides, I can snark that the review sheets for the quizzes have answers, and that doesn't seem to help the quiz grades. My students would be shocked to hear that there is a review sheet for the quizzes. Yes, it's called the homework from the textbook. If all you do is flip back to the answers and say to yourself, "Yeah, I could have gotten that answer," it's not helping anyone.

My theory about the review sheet answers is that it's sort of like prescription drugs. I'm going to use the example of ibuprofen, taking from the Wikipedia. If you have minor pain, you can buy the ibuprofen that you need OTC. In my analogy, this would be the answers from the back of the book and from the textbook author's web page. But if you have enough pain that you need 800mg of ibuprofen, you probably should get that checked out. Similarly, if by the end of the unit you have any question at all about your ability to solve the fundamental problems, you need to see someone about that. This ain't engineering calculus. There should be no surprises.

Let's look at a fairly typical example from my calculus class. This is from the last exam I gave.

Here's a Keynote slide from lecture. In class I worked several examples like this. (I use a SMART Sympodium to write on the slides and work out the problems during class.)

Maybe you didn't get it during class? You could read the textbook. If you have the eBook, you could also watch a video.

After reading the book, you could try some homework problems. The odd-numbered problems have answers in the back of the book.

If you weren't sure of your answer, you could get the full, worked-out solution for free (no registration required) on the author's webpage.

So when you see this problem on the review sheet, you should already know if you can do this type of problem or not. If you are at all unsure of whether or not you can do the problem, then you need to be going to someone's office hours. Like, now. If you didn't know how to do this problem, being told "7, 8, does not exist" is probably not going to be of much help.

Because my review sheet is really just the test with a few minor changes. If I give you the exam more than a week before it happens, I'm not also going to give you the answers.

For exam 2? The on coming up on Wednesday? I gave the students a link to an online derivative calculator. If you can't figure out how to take derivatives of algebraic functions and can't check your work with an online calculator, you need to be coming to office hours.