Murphy’s Laws for Mathematics

I was finally catching up on some blog reading today (Yes, I should be finishing the grading of my Differential Equations tests, but I was kind of cranky this morning for no apparent reason. I’m sure my students would prefer me to be in a good mood before I start grading)

While reading the Carnival of Mathematics over at Walking Randomly, I was pointed in the direction of "Murphy’s Laws for Mathematics".  I’m sure just about everyone knows the fundamental principle called Murphy’s Law:

  • Murphy’s Law: If anything can go wrong, it will.
  • Corollary 1: At the worst possible time
  • Corollary 2: Causing the most damage
  • Over at the site, Murphy’s Laws and Mathematics, we see how that works itself out in a mathematics course.  Here are a few of my favorites:

    • Every problem is harder than it looks and takes longer than you expected.
    • Notes you understood perfectly in class transform themselves into hieroglyphics at home.
    • The answers you need aren’t in the back of the book.
    • No matter how much you study for exams, it will never be enough.
    • The problems you can work are never put on the exam.
    • The problems you are certain won’t be on the test will be.
    • The answer to the problem you couldn’t work on the exam will become obvious after you hand in your paper.

    This page was linked to over at 360 and I found his additions worth quoting as well:

    • That brilliant insight to the problem you’ve been working on for weeks will disappear the moment you find some paper to write it down.
    • The set of GREAT exam questions from a teacher perspective and the set of GREAT exam questions from a student perspective are nearly disjoint.
    • If you wait until the last minute to print/photocopy something, the printer/copier will most surely break down.

    Now that I am using Office Live to store my PowerPoint slides for my Intermediate Algebra course and also teaching an online Algebra course as well, I have a  technological addition:

    • Any online tool essential for your curriculum will be unavailable from 30 minutes before class or an online exam, until roughly 2 seconds after other arrangements have been made.

    HT: 360

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