Blogging 104. Week One.

(Homework and other administrative stuff is here.)

Blogging 104. Week One.

There were an unusual number of walkouts on the first night… and a much smaller class the second night. We’ll see how things shake out when the points-for-a-grade start going in the log next week.

For all I know, One-Oh-Anything students at Big State might habitually “shop around” on the first night of these Night-for-Day classes (most of the sections meet a Lecturer in a big lecture hall and a TA in smaller “breakout” sessions… I do, in effect, the lecture and the recitation [with less time to do ’em in; the big classes have extra sessions for exams (all the sections get the same exam), whereas I’ve gotta give up class time…].).

And, of course, for all I know, I’m just the world’s worst lecturer-slash-recitation-coach and they’re just running away fast for their own good. You’ll forgive me if I find this option hard to believe. Things’re going pretty well by my lights. Several students responded early on to questions I tossed out to the general room. In some cases (when I needed to refer again to the result), I asked their name (and then immediately used their name in referring to the result). In principle, this is part of my getting-to-know-you process but in practice I tend to forget the names and it’s really about letting ’em know they can and should speak up when they have something to say (and that it’s good idea to know who the other students are and what they can do).

Then the much-smaller Day Two class was all over me with the questions. Actually, it was almost entirely the same three people during the “lecture” bit… but I spoke with several more on the “problem solving” bit.

And the problem solving itself? Well. Too soon to tell. No scarier than one should expect, I suppose. One is mostly doing recap for most of the students here or they wouldn’t stand a chance at this pace. This week we “did” four textbook Sections, “covering” slope-of-a-line, forms of (two-variable) linear equations (general, slope-intercept, and point-slope), and systems of (two) such linear equations, via (a.) algebra (“substitution method” only; the “elimination method” is in Section 5 [but naturally I looked ahead and did one this way]) and (b.) the Graphing Calculator.

The second half (five weeks) of Math 102 at Crosstown Community College where I’ve presented the same material countless times to students mostly even more doomed than, let’s say, the bottom quartile of the 104 students here. I may be misunderestimating something or somebody somehow of course but make no mistake. There is a great deal of doom in these courses in their nature. Math departments pay the rent by “weeding out” students in “required” courses… in programs where Algebra plays no other part. It feels like telling tales out of school putting it thus bluntly. But actually, outside of school it’s pretty well understood. It’s just taboo in school because teachers are incredibly touchy about their grading practices (and administrators are worse).

So. My team on the first day… those who stayed to the end and handed in a Problem Of The Day… did “Find an equation for the line through (-1, 3) and (2, -6)” [or somesuch pair of points]; half of ’em got it perfect. Of course, one should routinely check such work (and not hand in until you know it’s right), but this is still a pretty good sign. What’s more, there were no blind-fumbling-with-formuli papers at all (handed in). All but two or three appeared to have a pretty good handle on the nature of the procedure.

And last night? The shrunken class made it easy and comfortable to talk over most of the papers with their authors and it felt pretty right. I plotted (-7, 11) against some co-ordinate axes and sketched the horizontal and vertical lines through (-7, 11); also the line through (-7, 11) and the origin; find the equations. This used to give 102-103 students fits back at Crosstown. Also a straight-up “solve the system”.

And, like I say, so far so good. On the actual quiz Tuesday? The “special case” stuff… systems with no solution or infinitely many solutions, for example… will probably throw more than a handful for a loop (despite my having… emphatically… “reviewed” it just before the quiz [as I intend to do]). Beyond that, I’m unwilling to predict. Don’t want to jinx it.

Oh, and I’ll draw a map of the room just before they take the quiz and study the names. If I time it right, I might be able to take my “quiz number one” and recite ’em all off (with the “map” hidden from my eyes). Yay, small classes.

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