Thursday, April 08, 2010

Go Ahead, Tell Me How You Feel

Today a group of students came to my office and spent 45 minutes complaining about their math class.

In case you are wondering, here is some advice from students:
  1. Plan ahead. Be organized. Do not forget to assign the homework. Do not forget to tell the students that you've assigned online homework. Do not forget to teach topics that will appear on your exams.
  2. Use good board technique. The students are willing to write down everything that you write. They would like to be able to look back at it and decipher it.
  3. Let the students do the problems the same way that they are done in the book, even if you like to do them a different way.
  4. Do not make arbitrary changes in notation from the textbook. For example, in the chain rule and in substitution, there is no reason to use h where everyone else (including the book) uses u
  5. In introductory courses, test problems should resemble assigned homework problems. Also, test questions should be limited to material that you mentioned in class.
  6. When there are only 15 students in your class, try to learn their names by the end of the semester. Or, at least some of the names.
  7. When you ask if there are any questions, do not get annoyed at students for asking questions.
  8. Do not take off the vast majority of the points when the student uses an offbeat -- but mathematically correct -- method of solution with a tiny error in it.

And students: If you can identify specific, concrete things that make your math class a nightmare, then you should complain before the semester is nearly over.

Also today I spent a while on the phone with a dad! Normally only the mommies call me, but today I spent a while on the phone with someone's dad. Nope, I don't get to FERPA out of this type of conversation, as the father never told me the student's name or even which section of the class the student was enrolled in. The dad was concerned that the student's performance in math class may cause problem with the student's plans to attend professional school school in the future. I told the dad that there isn't much that can be done in April but to send the student to talk to me and we'd try to come up with a plan.