Friday, September 25, 2009

Here's How Not to Be Proactive About Your Education

First, some backstory. On Wednesday, Septemmber 9, I taught my calculus class the power rule. This is perhaps the most trivial lesson in all of differential calculus. Applying this simple rule is completely algorithmic and requires absolutely no understanding at all. In its simplest form, it can be taught (without comprehension) to very young children who do not know how to multiply. This is, without exaggeration, the easiest topic in all of calculus. Especially since I don't prove anything in the Calculus Circus.

So Stu got the flu around September 9 and got a note from his physician stating that he should stay home for 10-12 days. Stu didn't tell me anything about the flu or this note until this morning.

See, here's the thing. Although Stu was too sick to learn the power rule, he still decided to take the calculus exam on Wednesday, September 16 (when he was supposed to be at home recovering from the flu). Not surprisingly, since Stu didn't know how to take derivatives (and didn't bother to read the freaking book or watch the videos on WebAssign to figure it out), Stu couldn't do those problems. However, based on Stu's performance on the exam, Stu didn't know how to do the material that had been covered when he was healthy, either.

On Wednesday I emailed all the failing students to see what's up with them. This morning Stu responds with his tale of flu. In the meantime we have covered several more rules. Stu seems to believe that there is a "pause" button on calculus and that he needn't bother trying to keep up with the material while he hasn't been attending class.