Tuesday, April 22, 2014

another brick in the wall.

the more I teach liberal arts students, the more convinced I am that my own history is .. slightly out of the ordinary.

simply put.. mathematicians, let alone academic scholars, are a significant minority of the population .. even when one restricts to the college-attending sub-population of the western world only. we aren't ordinary in the sense that we are probabilistically rare. [1]

i guess that's just one way of saying (read: justifying) that i'm weird and i shouldn't be surprised that my students and i don't understand one another.

today i taught two lectures and it felt like i was instructing two confused yet brick-made walls.

it's a very isolating, unnerving experience. maybe i take too much pride in delivering clear, motivating lectures .. where "clear" means clear to me, but apparently not to anyone else.

i'm not being fair, though. it's not equal footing between them and i, because i'm the one setting the agenda and I know what's coming next; to them, though, i'm speaking a foreign language and during class, it's all they can do to copy what's on the blackboard.

isn't it fair, though, that after most of the semester, that they keep up with me?

put otherwise, if i'm going to interact with a brick wall, why should i leave my office to do so? why should I talk about things i know well when i can explore this i don't know but that i want to?

what's the damned point?!?

[1] the more i think about it, the more irrationally obsessive of a student i must have been. i remember studying with friends for exams by quizzing each other, asking each other how to prove this or that statement on the spot. i remember checking out maths books from the library, reading what seemed fascinating at the time. i remember being incredibly upset that, after two years and then graduating, i couldn't solve one particular open problem that my mentor suggested to me. (as far as I know, though, even now nobody's solved it either.)

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