Monday, August 24, 2009

First Reading Assignment

Since I am not sure when Blackboard is going to be available for the class (I procrastinated asking for the two sections to be merged into a single section), here is the reading assignment and preparation for classwork for Wednesday.

Reading Assignments:

Online Calculus Textbook: Read Sections 1.1 and 1.2 (link below). These sections emphasize the idea that variables (which represent physical quantities) can be related, as independent and dependent variables. We want to think about related quantities throughout this semester. This text specifically asks for the web-browser Firefox version 3.0 or later (this is to render formulas correctly).
Come prepared to class having prepared answers for Problems 3, 4, 6, 7, 10 from Section 1.2 Problems. We will discuss these problems but will not turn them in.

How Students Learn: This book prepared by the National Academy of Sciences is actually written for teachers to focus on making courses better suited for students to learn. The first 12 pages introduce three concepts that students should be aware of in their own learning. The link below goes to the first page, and then follow the links to read through page 12.
  • How Students Learn, page 1 through page 12.

Why is math fun? Why is math hard?

Today in class, I tried to help break the ice and reduce some of the anxiety related to taking a university mathematics course (Math 231). I asked students for examples of why they might find mathematics fun and why they might find mathematics hard. Here are some of the responses.

Why fun?
  • It's fun when you struggle with a concept and then it finally clicks and you understand.
  • It's fun to see mathematics actually being applied to a real problem.
  • It's fun when you are able to spot trends and make predictions based on data.
  • It's fun why you really understand why instead of just the "required" steps.
  • When you understand, it becomes easy.
  • It can be a lot like a game or solving a puzzle.
  • It's fun to develop things logically.
Why hard?
  • Later material builds on earlier material, so missing something early is permanent hardship.
  • It can be really hard when the teacher goes too fast.
  • It can be really hard when the teacher is unclear, especially if they can't give alternate ways of thinking about an idea.
  • It can be hard if the teaching style is very different from your learning style.
  • There are so many formulas, it can be overwhelming to try to memorize them.
  • The theorems, rules and definitions are full of little details.
  • It can be difficult to understand the many conceptual ideas that interact.
  • Learning related technology can be challenging.
  • Only one answer, so you can't fake it.
  • Very hard to cram for exams.
  • It can be really hard to find a little (stupid) mistake when proofing your work.
  • Lots of homework, and problems can take a lot of time.
I'd welcome more comments, including examples of when you found mathematics especially exciting or examples of how your relationship with mathematics soured. Feel free to post a comment.