Monthly Archives: July 2006

Proof!

ProofI finally sat down and watched the movie, “Proof,” starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Anthony Hopkins, and Jake Gyllenhaal.  All three of these actors have, at one time or another, topped my list of favorites, or at least appeared near the top.  They’ve also taken dives for various perfomances they’ve given.  Nevertheless, I really enjoyed this flick and would recommend it to anyone.  I’m not much for writing reviews so I’ll spare you the torture of reading a crudely written one.  In the end, I’d give it 4 out of 5 stars.

By the way, speaking of proofs, check out this article.  I’d call it a well-written ode to proof.  The beauty of proof is one of the many reasons I was attracted to the field of mathematics, probably even a stronger draw than the simple applicability of mathematical modeling.  Plus, I was surprised to learn that the Guinness Book of World Records website names someone who has discovered 520 proofs for the Pythagorean Theorem.  (I doubt they are all attributable to a single individual, but I can’t say I know for sure)

Dead blog . . . Arise!

So, thanks to the many activities I have committed myself to, I have let the blogging slip way down the totem pole. The blog’s not dead but mostly on hiatus. Nevertheless, I had a few thoughts to record, so here we go.

As I have mentioned on here before, I am teaching a developmental math course this summer in Amarillo at the Wayland campus there. It is been a bit more work than I thought it would be. As it is not really even a college level course, strictly speaking, I expected to do a little less work on lecture notes since I would be able to get away with jotting an outline and few examples down and explain thoroughly off the cuff. Additionally, I had designed the course to be less lecture than my typical courses allowing for more group activities and interactive learning.

Although most of the above has been accomplished as I hoped, to some success, I might add, I feel as though the students are getting little shorted when it comes to the administrative side of the course. Wayland utilizes a software package called Blackboard for its online courses. In addition to its Virtual Campus, Wayland also utilizes Blackboard to host course content for its traditional classes. Besides providing all the assignments and course documents online, I use the gradebook feature to allow students access to their regularly updated grades. Unfortunately I have not kept up my end of the bargain with the “regularly” updated side of things. It is a weekly class in another town some 75 miles away, leaving the students with very little access to me except through email or phone. Despite my “guarantees” (two weeks in a row) to update the gradebook and failing to do so, I have every intention of improving this pattern of poor behavior.

To add insult to injury, last week was another poor showing by the professor of these poor math students. The class is a Monday night class. The first day of class should have been May 29, except that it was Memorial Day. So, already an 11 week class was down to 10 weeks (4 hours, one night per week). Last week was July 3rd so many students were hoping to get off, but I just couldn’t knock us down to 9 weeks total, especially when the final is actually one of these classes. That just didn’t maintain enough contact hours for this course. So I scheduled a meeting the day before Independence Day. However, I forgot to make sure that the campus building in Amarillo would be open. It was not. On top of that, I left my key in Plainview, the key which would have let is into the building. So, instead of dismissing class, we met at a nearby Whataburger, where I ordered drinks for all, answered homework questions and assigned new homework. At the very least, it was probably a memorable experience to study math in groups at a Whataburger; it still was a bit too unorthodox for me.

But, as I mentioned, they seem to be doing quite well for a course of this level. All of them need credit in College Algebra but are starting with this remedial course to get the foundation they need to do well in that course. I was reminded this evening of the significant difference between the traditional students who come straight out of high school and those who are returning to school after a few (or more) years in the workforce. I was covering a topic which I knew would be covered in much more detail in a later course. It was something that they would have no homework over, nor would it be tested over in the current course. I mentioned this fact off the cuff and then openly asked them if they would bother to learn it under those circumstances. Knowing that my answer would probably have been a clear “No”, most of them honestly expressed the sentiment that if it was related to something they might use, then they’d learn it. It just reminded me not to be teaching in order to prepare students for a test, which is the most common mindset of my traditional students. I am teaching skills for use, not for testing. It’s so much more fun to teach with a mind to application of skills than to regurgitation of algorithms on some exam.