Wednesday, December 08, 2010

review sessions: an ambivalence.

philosophically, i am opposed to review classes for caΙculus classes. it's similar in view to why some believe that bicycle helmets do not save many cyclists' lives, but not as extreme.

perhaps i take an overly personal, extreme view on the subject, but:
if you have been listening to me all semester, then you know what's relevant and what's not.

i understand if, at a random moment, that you mightn't have a good picture of the course as a whole. then again, that's the point of studying outside of class. there is the old standby rule that for every 1 hour of lecture, one should spend 1 hour studying the material outside of class.

so if you haven't been listening, then why should i bother repeating myself? what evidence do i have that you will listen to me, this second time around?!?
realistically, these days one covers a lot of material in a calcuΙus course. it's hard to keep all the information in one's head, all at once, so it is good to remind the student of what has been discussed.
then again, isn't studying the responsibility of the student? looking over notes, working out more practice problems?

maybe i'm just become old-fashioned. it's harder to be a teacher, these days: one has to motivate students, all the time, while still show them nontrivial things. myself, i am not a natural teacher: i'm not patient enough.
some days i wonder if i should quit the business of mathematics!


Anonymous said...

Instead of reviewing, I typically do a problem session. Like you said, they don't need to hear me sum up what they need to know. Before the last day, I'll give them a list of suggested practice problems that will not be collected. Then on the last day, I let them ask questions and pick problems to work in class. Most of the time, I can deflect a question right back to the class and find a student to answer it. I end up not doing much more than moderating a mathematical discussion between students. I go in that day with nothing prepared, content to let them go early if they run out of questions. They have always filled the whole period with questions though.

janus said...

it does sound like a problem session, or what my department would call a recitation.

those sessions, however, consist of about 25- students. over the semester, there are already 2 x 13 = 26 such sessions.

perhaps there is an effective means of doing so, but i can't see an efficient way of organizing a class of 75+ students into this kind of session (without roping my TAs into attending lecture, at any rate).

question: do your students treat these problems as a practice exam? if so, do they expect that the actual exam would look almost identical to the practice?

Anonymous said...

They do treat it like a practice exam, even though its much longer and a little more difficult than the actual exam. I try to assure them that if they can do these problems, then they have skills needed for the exam.

I typically do give similar problems, except I make sure that the numbers and calculations are less messy on the exam. I don't worry about it so much on the review.

I don't envy you for having 75 students. That's a tough environment to teach in. Unfortunately, having to grade that many exams would affect the kinds of problems I give them.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and good luck with the job search. It looks tough out there this year. You're a good candidate though.