Tuesday, December 02, 2008

briefly, about teaching (yesterday)

i will now make a teaching vow. unless i know that i will be the one writing the final exam, i will never again permit formula sheets on exams. you think that you're being a nice guy by making the lives of your students simpler, but that's not the case.

it just means that when the formula sheets are gone, then you become an "unreasonable" teacher, the bad guy. since the students have never had to learn without these formula sheets, they don't know that they can do without them. it seems like too much work.

such formula sheets are crutches, anyway;
i should never have used them.

i forget this, every time, until that moment while in lecture when everyone is deathly silent: never, ever suggest that there is no sure-fire way to solve a particular problem.

this time around, it involved showing that a mu1tivariate 1imit exists or does not exist. in textbooks the problems always boil down to tricks -- how one chooses certain dire¢tions to obtain different directiona1 1imits.

i give suggestions and general principles. they are still panicked that there is no hard and fast rule to "how do you know when you should try to show that the 1imit does exi$t?"

i guess students are really that insecure about their reasoning skills. perhaps they've never been responsible for "thinking their way out of a problem," which is what we mathematicians do for a living, day in and day out.

(in the past, i've panicked students when discussing c0mparison tests for infiniτe series and methods of inte9ration for riem@nn integrals.)


Leonid said...

Yes, it's a good practice to have the same exam policies for midterms as for the final exam. If the final is a common exam, then whoever is in charge of it should say at the beginning of semester what they are going to do about calculators or formula sheets.

janus said...

yes, a lesson learned. i'm currently doing so, this term.