austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

Now, I don't claim to be an ``A'' student

I'm sure everyone was waiting eagerly to hear how the ``Stump the Professors'' thing went in my mother's class. Well, gafennec is, I know, and that's close enough to everyone. It started out fairly baffling, since I had committed to go to a talk being held halfway across the state (east-west, so it's not as intimidating as it sounds) at precisely the hour the class was supposed to end. The projected driving time was an hour, so that required me to plan to leave early. I got there a fair bit early, and my mother did too, and I learned something I had completely forgotten after all my experience teaching in Singapore: students in the United States will sometimes show up early. I don't mean a minute before class starts; I mean, fifteen minutes before class starts. I thought it was lucky if I had most of my Singaporean class assembled ten minutes after the designated start time.

The earliest students asked what plan my mother had for the class that day, and just how the ``Stump the Professors'' game would work, but I didn't know she had any plan to cover anything, and all I knew about the game was they could ask either of us questions, and if we couldn't answer them -- but the students did find the answer -- the person who asked would get five points. However, as this was before the start of class they didn't get these points for stumping me. It turned out my mother had some lecturing odds and ends to cover before starting the game, which was fine by me since I knew the longer I spent the more likely I'd get an easy question I couldn't answer, to my embarrassment.

My mother introduced me by explaining that apart from one high school course I've never taken any statistics course, and my preparation for ``Stump the Professors'' was just reading the book twice. (It was all I had time to do.) This brought gasps from some students; I would have thought reading the book the logical way to start studying for a whole term. My mother said that was just how mathematicians spend their weekends, which is not precisely true.

What I should have seen coming was that students would pick on me, going to me first for any questions they'd missed on their homework -- since, of course, my mother could certainly answer them, they'd at least have a chance with me. But there, it turned out in my reading I absorbed many of them (particularly as my mother used some questions nearly verbatim, and asked many multiple-choice questions where a little bit of reasoning can cut options down). They got to be intimidated when I hadn't missed one five questions in and was answering things like the role of the obscure η2 measurement. They eventually started getting me, though, when they really moved into the mathematics questions. Happily, the ones I did get wrong I got wrong for clever reasons and I wasn't completely off-base on any of them. And I got going about an hour in, to my relief.

Trivia: The purpose of the Bank of England when it opened in 1694 was to raise money for the War of the League of Augsburg by taxation and a permanent loan. Source: History of Money, Glyn Davies.

Currently Reading: The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History, John M Barry.


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