Sep. 9th, 2017

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.

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stoutfellow

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