November 9th, 2011

krazy koati

Hoping all the verses rhyme, and the very best of choruses too

My class continues, and last week reached the first of its scheduled exams. The scores there turned out ... ah ... very bimodal. There's a cluster of students who've got it, and a cluster who just haven't, and there's about twenty points between them. It's going to be tricky balancing the class so the got-it students don't end up bored and the don't-got-it don't give up.

However, one of my students did give up: he came to me at the start of the class with an add/drop form and explained he just couldn't make it and was withdrawing. He needed my signature for it.

I asked if he was sure about it, as if he hadn't thought about this plenty already. I think I made the first assignment too hard --- in particular, I'd assigned some problems which were just too tediously long, because I'd not paid attention to just how long they are when done by hand. (I haven't explicitly prohibited using programs like Excel to do the calculations, but I haven't shown them how to do it, either, since it's not really a computer class.) I was trying to loosen that up, particularly on the exam, but, well, he was sure.

It struck me hard, too. I've had students drop me before, but usually it's either at the start of class when they've heard the syllabus and don't know me, or else they just stop attending and I later see the class roster doesn't list them anymore. This is the first time I remember having to sign a drop form. I hate telling people to give up on mathematics work, and it felt like I was the one doing the telling.

bunny_hugger, the department secretary, and a full-time professor there were approving of the news, by the way. It is after all less work for me, and it's far better students drop when they feel it's hopeless rather than carry on to bitter failure. And I do have a couple students who are struggling, mightily, who're finally coming to office hours to get straightened out.

Trivia: Roman Emperor Caligula was served 160-year-old Opimian Falernian wine in the year 39. A first-century poet, Martial, described this vintage as ``immortal'', although by that date it was probably undrinkable. Source: A History Of The World In Six Glasses, Tom Standage.

Currently Reading: Germany 1945: From War To Peace, Richard Bessel.