stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
Week three of the semester is complete. I'm teaching three courses: Math 320, "Introduction to Algebraic Structures"; Math 421, "Linear Algebra II"; and Math 435, "Foundations for Euclidean and Non-Euclidean Geometry".

Math 320 is a tough course for our students. The problem is that the mathematical objects we study in that class, "groups", are totally unlike anything else they've ever encountered. I mean, calculus is tough, but going in the students know what functions are and they can visualize things like tangent lines. Linear algebra is hard, but they've at least seen vectors in 2- and 3-space. Groups? Nothing like them. I have thirteen students in the class; four of them have had classes with me before. (I think all four have had multiple classes with me, in fact.) When I ask questions in class, ("Okay, what's the next step?" "Why did I just do that?") it is almost always one of those four who answers. I have to directly choose one of the others to get them to speak up.

Math 421... On Thursday, I asked my students for input on the time and content of the first midterm - two weeks hence, including the extensive review material, or a week later and concentrating on the new material. The discussion was lively, one student in particular pushing hard for the latter, but the consensus favored the former option. After class, she apologized to me for the, um, vigor of her opinions... She teaches high school math, and mentioned that her students were complaining about the amount and difficulty of their homework, saying, "Kids, if you only knew!" - the latter a reference to the homework I was giving her. I told her the story of Janis Ian and Connie Willis (subtitle, "In which the famous singer learns about fangirling from the other side"); she laughed, then caught my point. "Ok, that gives me a different perspective on my students...." That may have been the best thing I did that day.

Math 435 only has four students. It probably would have been cancelled, but V, who heads our Math Ed program, vigorously defended it before the Dean as an essential component of that program - cancel it, and the students wind up delayed a full year. I enjoy that class. The first couple of weeks dealt with familiar, high school geometry, results, but this last week we got to more advanced topics like the Star Trek and Bow Tie Lemmas, and the Cyclic Quadrilaterals Theorem. Next week we fall back to similar triangles, but then roar ahead into circle geometry - radical axes, coaxal systems, and so forth.

So that's where we stand at the end of week three.

Week One

Aug. 25th, 2017 12:46 pm
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
I don't have classes on Friday, so week one of the semester is over. A few items of possible interest:

1) I'm very fond of Geometer's Sketchpad; it and Mathematica are core components of my research. There are two copies of GSP on campus; one, on my office computer, was bought for me by the department, and the other is on the computer in one of the classrooms, bought by the university. The advanced geometry courses, which I almost always teach, are always put in that room. So, Monday, prepping for that evening's E/NE Geometry class, I put together a couple of GSP notebooks and copied them to the network, so I could access them from the classroom. When I arrived there, I discovered that GSP... wasn't on that computer. (This is the second time this has happened; when OIT reinstalls software on the university system, as they do periodically, sometimes they forget to put GSP back on that one.) I dashed off a message to the Chair; the next day his secretary came down on OIT, and by the next class meeting, GSP was again available.

2) The geometry class only has four students - it was almost cancelled because of that, but it's a required course for Math Ed and only offered once a year, so it survived - so I'm shifting from straight lecture to something more interactive. At least one of the four is really sharp, which is a good percentage.

3) After one class yesterday, one of my students caught up with me to say I sounded (to him) like Neil deGrasse Tyson - not in voice, but in cadences. I've never actually heard Tyson speak, but I'll take it as a compliment. I am aware that butter was involved, of course. After the Linear Algebra II class, one student said, "Dr. :name:, you're making my head spin! I took Linear Algebra I twelve or thirteen years ago...." I made some encouraging noises. (We're reviewing key material from LAI at a compression rate of about 4:1. Of course she's having trouble, being that out of practice!)

4) Progress continues on my research. The idea I came up with last week definitely doesn't work all the time, but I've verified that it works pretty often. That will probably go into the fourth paper in the sequence. (Still haven't put the finishing touches on the first paper....)

All in all, not a bad first week.

First Lap

May. 7th, 2017 08:13 pm
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
Oof! :creak:

One stack of finals done; two to go. (One only has five tests in it.)

I have to post grades by noon tomorrow.



Apr. 27th, 2017 09:47 pm
stoutfellow: Joker (Default)
This is the last week of classes; finals are next week.

Naturally, I have students asking when the final is. People asked on Monday. On Wednesday, in the same class, people asked again. A couple of people have e-mailed me.

The date and time of the final is posted on a little placard right outside the classroom door. It can also be looked up online, on the university webpage.

Tomorrow, in class, someone will once again ask me when the final is. I will point at the door.


Apr. 13th, 2017 08:43 pm
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
In my GenEd Statistics class, we've finally gotten around to probability. (Yes, it's three weeks until the end of semester. I did not write the textbook or the syllabus.)

I just got a neat example to use in tomorrow's class. Somebody went through all the deaths in Star Trek:TOS, and discovered that, yes, a higher fraction of the deaths were redshirts rather than goldshirts or blueshirts, but a higher fraction of goldshirts died than of redshirts or blueshirts. (See item 14 in this File 770 post.)

Myth. Busted.
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
Even in the midst of crisis, life goes on. This semester, I'm teaching History of Math (of course) and Linear Algebra I, which I haven't taught in a while. I was scheduled to teach A Geometric Introduction to Topology, but not enough students signed up, so it was cancelled. Instead, I'm teaching a section of GenEd Statistics. So far, the classes seem to be going well, but serious grading hasn't yet begun.

I'm back in the groove on cooking, too; I made a batch of chicken cacciatore last week, and minestrone casserole is cooking away in the kitchen for this week's dinners. I want to get back to some non-slow-cooker dishes sometime this year - maybe in summer; I've got some new Indian, Chinese, and Middle Eastern cookbooks I'm anxious to try.

On the reading front, my Kindle's Current collection holds Anne Bronte's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, E. E. Smith's Skylark 3, Kipling's Puck of Pook's Hill, and a translation of the Laxdaela Saga. I'm enjoying the Kipling, in particular; the saga is starting to get interesting; secrets are beginning to be revealed in the Bronte, and the Smith is, well, Smithian.

Life goes on, even in the midst of crisis. Last I heard, customs officials at Dulles are refusing to comply with the court order. This could get even uglier than it already is....


Aug. 23rd, 2016 04:30 pm
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
Fall Semester began yesterday. I'm teaching my usual fall classes, Calc I and Foundations of Geometry. I'm revamping my approach in Calc, after getting rather bad evaluations last year; we'll see how things develop. I'm also making some changes around the edges of the geometry class.

Yesterday, I was gesturing vigorously to illustrate a certain point, and managed to slam the back of my right hand down on the edge of the desk. (I finished the sentence, said "Ow!", and continued with the lecture.) The knuckles at the base of my ring finger and pinky were a little torn, the former bleeding sluggishly for a while. I've got to work on my spatial awareness - being aware of what's in my immediate vicinity and which might cause me damage....

I had no classes today, but I've got to get some things set up for the online component of the calculus course before tomorrow noon.

:starts to crack knuckles, but realizes that would be a bad idea:


May. 9th, 2016 01:41 pm
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
It begins now. I finished grading a stack of term papers a couple of hours ago, and entered the grades for that course. :heaves big sigh:

Saturday was my turn to attend Commencement. Since the ceremony was to begin at 10:30, and since the bus schedule is a little wonky on Saturdays, I had to leave the house at 8AM, and wait at the bus station for about half an hour for the connecting route. I got to campus a little before 10:00, and hurried over to my office, to pick up my cap and gown.

The door to that wing of the building was locked. Another door, some distance away was open; but the interior door to that wing was also locked. I found someone who seemed authoritative, who summoned an engineer to let me in. I got myself robed and hurried over to the place where faculty are supposed to gather.

There was no one there. OK, says I, maybe I'm early; I spent some time propping up a wall and watching the clock tick away. 10:15. 10:30. What the hell? 10:45. Maybe I misremembered the time? I headed back to my office to check the mail that had reminded me of my obligation.

The door was locked again.


Eventually, the wing door was unlocked, and I went back to my office. En route, I met V, who told me that the ceremony was at 12:30. The first message, telling us when to gather, had been incorrect, and I had not noticed the later correction.

Oh, well. Done's done, and all the disasters that could have happened didn't, and the semester's over. I'm going to take a week or so to relax, and then gird my loins for renewed battle with SWP. (New ideas continue to swirl, with isotomic conjugates, trilinear polars, and circumconics through the centroid all demanding a place at the table. I'm going to ignore the circumconics, but the other two do seem to clarify things, so a partial rewrite is in the offing.)


Apr. 15th, 2016 06:51 pm
stoutfellow: My summer look (Summer)
This was an eventful week.

On Monday, I realized that a certain phenomenon I'd noticed involving triangles was actually far more common. I had to start over on my current paper - the reorganization the new discovery suggested was rather thorough. I went in early to begin the rewrite, and split much of the day between wrestling with SWP6 and working out an extension of the new stuff to oddgons of all sizes.

Tuesday I went in early again for more of the same; in the afternoon, one of my Senior Project students gave his presentation. It was a difficult project, but he passed with flying colors.

Wednesday I had to go in early again, this time to observe a couple of our non-tenured faculty in class. I'll have to write up reports on both of them. In between were yet more SWPish wrestling, contemplation of a possible fourth or fifth paper in the series, and drawing pictures with Geometer's SketchPad. In the evening I did my taxes.

On Thursday, a candidate for a position in the department came calling. Since I am on the search committee, I had to be there for several events - a face-to-face with the committee, his teaching presentation, lunch with the department, and his research presentation. In between, V and I put our heads together, trying to wrap up the department newsletter. I also had to do some prep work for a committee meeting the next day.

Friday, I came in early yet again, this time for a meeting (which I attended remotely) of a statewide committee which coordinates GenEd courses in the general area of mathematics throughout the state of Illinois. Three and a half hours with a phone in my ear.... There was a lunch break, during which V and I got the newsletter just about done; after the meeting ended, I had another committee, this time to select a textbook for our abstract algebra sequence. That one was mercifully brief, and I was home by about 4:30. Even the bus driver thought I looked tired.

Next week, I get to start dealing with all the stuff I didn't have time for this week.

:stretches and yawns:
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
My History of Math students (one set of them, at least) are working on their first term papers in that class. One of them has been sending me questions about various stylistic and organizational matters; his curiosity satisfied, he thanked me for "answering my spam of emails with precision and haste".

A "spam of emails". I like that.
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
When I teach history of math, there are a number of set pieces that anchor the series of lectures: Galileo, Descartes, Newton, the 19th-century mathematical revolution.... Galileo is one of my favorites. He did so many things that I have to focus in on just a few: his observations of Venus (off which I hang a long discussion of the history of models of the Solar System), his work on ballistic motion (with his debunking of Aristotle, his experiments with inclined planes, and his discovery of orbital free fall), his study of the cycloid and other proto-calculus work, and his discovery and elucidation of the square-cube law.

Sometimes I forget, and leave something out. Last year, I somehow forgot the square-cube law, and this year I almost did it again; but I caught it in time. This year's students are a good bunch - they keep asking good questions and demanding clarifications. We had a fine discussion of the square-cube law, talking about giants, Spider-Man, houseflies and water-striders, Robert Wadlow, and - of all things - cancerous tumors, and the broader topic of dimensional analysis.

I'm pleased with this class. We're about ready to dive into Descartes, and the radical changes he brought to mathematics and its methodology. I'm looking forward to seeing how they'll react.


Dec. 16th, 2015 07:15 pm
stoutfellow: (Winter)
Two days till vacation. I've done my share of grading the common final; now I've got to take the data from my students' tests and sort it into the spreadsheet. (My policy of letting parts of the final boost midterm grades is a little stickier to implement, now that I've been dragged into the Common Final arena.) I also have to grade the take-home finals from my geometry course; the last one came in fifteen minutes before the deadline I'd imposed. (Nearly a third of the students e-mailed me their finals.)

Meanwhile, I've been giving my bookkeeping program real data, looking for bugs and fixing them, and simplifying some of the code - I finally figured out the relationship between FormOpen and FormActivate, which allows a good bit of dekludging! So far, I've been able to fix all of the flaws in the routines I've tried. The innovations I've added to this version are working fine, but there are some redundancies that keep tripping me up - modular code has its benefits, but there are a few places where I've changed my mind about where to handle certain actions, and one in particular is causing me problems. I'll have to *make up my mind*....

I've hired a dogsitter; he came by on Sunday and I gave him the lowdown. I'll probably send him an e-mail with some additional comments - "When to let the dogs out the back door", "On the giving of treats", etc.

Skyrim proceeds; I'm up into the early 50s as regards character level, and I've activated several of the Daedric quests. (I've finished the deals with Clavicus Vile, Hircine, Mephala, and Vaermina, winning the Masque, the Ring, the Blade, and the Skull; Azura, Boethiah, Mehrunes Dagon, Meridia, Molog Bal, and Sheogorath are on tap.) Smithing's up to level 100; Alchemy and Enchanting are both at level 81, and I'm pushing to get them up to level 100, with all perks. Then I'll make all the top-flight armor, weapons, and jewelry I'll need for every persona - Barbarian, Warrior, Marksman, Rogue, and Mage - and let Smithing and Enchanting go Legendary. Alchemy stays put; its products are consumable, unlike those of the other two, so I want to keep that skill maxed out.

I'm a bit annoyed by my research at the moment. To make further progress, it would be really good if I could come up with continuous analogs of some of the character-theory tricks I've been using. They may not exist, say some dim memories; sadly, there's nobody in the department who specializes in that area. (There are a couple of people who might be able to make useful comments, but I haven't been able to catch either of them in the last few days.)

Definitely ready for break.


May. 11th, 2015 06:49 pm
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
Well, the semester's over; this morning I submitted the grades for my classes, which basically means I'm done.

Well, not quite. I still have to handle final details for my Senior Project student's paper, and I'll be on the committees for two other SP students in the next week or so - one tomorrow, one TBA. There's also one committee meeting on the 27th, and one more class observation I have to write up and submit.

Then the semester will be over.

[My three-papers plan for my research has been disarranged by my recent realizations concerning central affine transforms; they seem to be a much bigger deal than I recognized, and I'll need to explore them some more before I can reorganize things. The first paper in the set is still on track, at least.]

[There are hints that we may be able to move back into the old Science Building in time for Fall Semester. Hope that won't affect my travel plans.]

[I actually feel like taking a couple of day-long naps. Long semester.]


May. 1st, 2015 06:46 am
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
Well, the semester's almost over. Yesterday, my Senior Assignment student made her presentation, and passed; I'll be meeting with her this afternoon for post-mortem edits. I gave a final review session in Intro to Analysis afterward. Tuesday will be the Cinco de Mayo potluck, then two finals on Wednesday and one on Thursday, and the semester's done.

I won't be teaching this summer, but I will be busy. I'm starting to organize my research on polygons into papers; I tentatively see a set of three, overall title "Towards a Taxonomy of Polygons". ("I: Isolated Classes"; "II: Affine Transforms and Extremal Classes"; "III: Families and Singular Classes".) Also, teaching QR forced me to use the Blackboard electronic supplement system, and now that I can see some of its potential, I'll be putting together materials for my fall classes. Meanwhile, there's stuff to be done around the house (replacing weatherstripping, fixing the roof, etc.) and databasing to be done (finishing the Skyrim db, revamping my financial software, and redesigning my library catalog). Not to mention, at the tail end of August, a three-cornered visit to San Diego and Spokane.

But first, a week or so of lazing around....


Feb. 9th, 2015 08:33 pm
stoutfellow: (Winter)
One of my QR students told me, today, that my voice reminds her of the character Booger from Revenge of the Nerds, and that this amused her. I've never seen the movie; I only know the actor, Curtis Armstrong, as Viola from "Moonlighting", and it's been so long that I don't remember his voice - not that there's any guarantee that he used the same voice in both roles, anyway.

Should I be pleased, disconcerted, or something else, by this information?

Two Weeks

Jan. 25th, 2015 12:15 pm
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
We're two weeks into the semester.

I'm teaching three courses: History of Mathematics, Introduction to Real Analysis, and Quantitative Reasoning 101.

History of Math, of course, I've taught many times before. Intro to Real Analysis is the course I taught last summer; basically, it's Calculus Done Right (for math majors, as opposed to scientists, engineers, etc.). I wasn't too pleased with my performance in summer, but this time I've got a full fifteen weeks (instead of ten) and hope to do better. It seems to be going reasonably well. (I have Quiz 2 sitting on the dining table waiting for grading; we'll see.) QR 101 is a relatively new course, which pretty much everybody who isn't a STEM major has to take. It's very low level; we just finished a chapter on converting units of measurement within and between the US customary and metric systems. I'm getting suggestions and such from the course coordinator, but I'm nervous about how I'm doing. I'll be giving a quiz in that class on Monday, and we'll see how things go. (QR also has an online component, which I *think* I've gotten straightened out after a couple of days of misfires.)

History of Math and QR meet M/W, and run an hour fifteen each; Intro to Real Analysis meets T/Th, and runs an hour fifty. That first Tuesday, I tried to dismiss the class after 1:15, only to be brought up short by one of the students. The following day, I tried to continue past the 1:15 mark (thinking I had another 35 minutes to go), only to be brought up short by one of the students. There's one student - not the up-short-bringer in either case - who's in both classes. He found this hilarious....

Here's to improvement - mine and theirs!
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
Well, finals are over; I posted grades for my classes yesterday morning, and I'll be leaving for California on Friday. It'll be a shorter trip than usual this year, only a little over two weeks, but we'll fit everything needful in.

I think I'm only going to take a couple of physical books with me this time. Both of them are time-eaters. One is volume two of a study of the late Roman Empire; I finished the first volume a week or two ago. This one has the material on trade that I was most interested in. The other is a math text, on "homotopy type theory"; it's not very long, but I know that it's going to take study to understand. Of course, I'll have my Kindle, and I'll probably buy a few books at B&N while I'm there.

Next semester will be a bit of a change for me. I'll be teaching my history of math course, as usual, but my differential geometry course didn't attract enough students and had to be cancelled. My other two courses will be Introduction to Analysis (which I taught last summer, but this time I'll have the full fifteen weeks instead of trying to cram it into eight) and Quantitative Reasoning, a freshman-level course, mainly for people who won't be going into STEM fields; I've never taught it before, and I'm a little uneasy about it. Both courses will require a good deal of prep work, which is one reason I'm coming back a week before classes start.

:yawn: I definitely need this break.
stoutfellow: My summer look (Summer)
It is somewhat annoying when a student forgets to put their name on their final exam. It need not be catastrophic, if everyone enrolled in the class actually shows up for the final.

It is somewhat more than annoying when two students forget, even if everyone shows up.

:shakes cane:
stoutfellow: (Winter)
I don't have the exact dates handy, so I can't be precise. But:

Sometime in May of next year, I will have been teaching at this university for half of my life.

:is old:
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
Yesterday was the last day of class for the semester. (It was also the first snow of the season - a bit late this year....) The last week, in my calculus class, was devoted to review, and the last day in particular was only sparsely attended. (Twelve students, out of an official count in the high forties, and several of them left early.) They were running out of questions toward the end, and then one of the students asked me what other courses I taught. I told them: calculus and advanced geometry this semester, a different advanced geometry class and two classes on the history of math. One of them - the sharp young lady who sits in the middle of the front row - looked interested at that last bit, though several others were clearly less enthused.

"What's your favorite class to teach?"

It is more than a little gratifying to hear a question like that. I'll admit, the students who are less happy with me probably weren't there that day.

Heigh-ho. Time to start thinking about the final.


stoutfellow: Joker (Default)

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