Monday, May 10, 2010

Calculus Winding Down

Nearly done with the calculus class. Today I spent three hours in my office listening to complaining students who didn't understand why they did so badly on the final exam when they had done so well all semester. It's because their pattern-matching skills break down when they have to deal with a whole semester worth of stuff. They integrated when they should have differentiated (and vice versa). On the problem that asked for the area under the curve, instead of using a definite integral they found the average rate of change. (They keyed in on the phrase "from x = 1 to x = 2" instead of "area under the curve" and mistakenly applied the rule "if you are given two x values, find the average rate of change.") For those keeping track at home, I received a lot more complaints and office visits about final exam scores this semester, when I posted the raw scores on Blackboard, than I did the past five semesters, when I just posted the course letter grade on the online grade system.

Still fielding emails from students with grades like 74.52% who want me to bump them up to a 77%, which is the cut-off for the next letter grade up. Um, no. My syllabus says that all fractional points are rounded down. There are people with 76.7% who I'm not rounding up to a 77%.

Recalculated the grades of two of the cheaters (the lesser cheaters) to figure out what letter grades they should get after applying the point penalty that I'm imposing. The other cheaters were easier for me to deal with -- no recalculations needed. Hand-delivered the cheater-letters to the office that deals with such things.

Probably should take care of the Title IV reporting. Most of my failing students stopped attending, so I should figure out the last time they did something relating to the course. I think I'll use the max of "last exam taken" and "last day accessed course Blackboard site" as their last day of attendance. There may not be as many of them as I think, though, as when I was entering grades there were an unprecedented number of students with withdrawal dates during the last week of classes. That's six weeks after the withdrawal deadline, which means that they either pulled strings or completely disenrolled for the semester. Sadly, one of the late-withdrawal students has a C- average in my gradebook -- including averaging in the zero from not taking the final. It's too bad that there isn't some way for me to issue this student three credit-hours of non-graded (pass-fail) calculus credit. It seems stupid for this student to have to take the entire class again after excelling at 14/15 of the class.

Tomorrow and Thursday I'm spending the day at New Job. Wednesday and Friday I'm working on moving my office. Monday I start New Job full time. Once Monday rolls around the calculus students move down to the bottom of my priority list. (Summer job remains a distraction -- Know anyone in the Boston-area looking for a summer intern either in mathematical biology or anything dealing with airplanes?)