Tall, Dark, and Mysterious


Precalculus bingo: the multiplayer edition

File under: Those Who Can't, Meta-Meta, Queen of Sciences. Posted by Moebius Stripper at 9:40 pm.

Of all the snark I’ve posted on the topic of teaching intro college math, none has garnered as much sympathy - and laughter - as precalculus bingo. Everyone who’d ever taught a math class anywhere in the world could relate to my experiences; apparently that’s what this guy is saying, anyway. Grading sad, sad tests is as inevitable as death and taxes for those of us who teach college math, except we see a lot more bad tests than we see of either of those two staples. Even taxes, even me, and I’m Canadian.

Anyway: in the comments to the bingo post and in some of the links leading to it, many of my fellow mathematicians made suggestions for their own squares. There was no shortage of dumbass mistakes that my readers were willing to predict, and to them I say - make your own damned bingo cards, dammit.

And then send them to me.

Three weeks from now, my precalculus students will be writing their final exam, and grading it will surely test my faith in my ability to do my job, and in the high school system’s ability to do its. Grading the final exams will be like grading the tests, except that it will take twice as long as suck three times as much. I’m going to need more than a single bingo card to make it bearable.

So: make up your own precalculus bingo card, and send it over. I’ll accept submissions either as HTML tables, or as .jpg/.gifs that are 500 by 500 pixels. The day that I grade the exams, I will play all of the bingo cards simultaneously. The person with the best card will win a copy of Innumeracy, by John Allen Paulos, or a handmade crocheted Moebius strip, or a crocheted hyperbolic plane, or - if anyone has any other ideas, let me know. Cards will be judged on two criteria weighted equally: success in the bingo game, and precision of your predictions. (This latter one was inspired by the two friends I bounced this idea off of first, who said, “Oh, well, I can just win by making every square read ’student gets question wrong’! Then I’ll win!” Yeah, your card will do well, but you’ll still be a loser, loser.)

My precalculus class this term covered - in theory, anyway - the topics of solving linear and quadratic equations; factoring polynomials; completing the square; graphing polynomials, rational, and exponential functions; and solving logarithmic and exponential equations. You name a mistake on any topic thereto appertaining, they’ve made it at some point during the term. I don’t ask my readers for money - I don’t need to be paid to provide this snark, and I’m happy to do it for free - but right now, precalculus bingo is the only thing keeping me from deciding never to teach another precalculus class again, and if I made good on that decision, you’d get a lot less snark from me. So.

Submissions are due April 13, at 11:59 pm Pacific Time. Send them to moebiusstripper AT talldarkandmysterious DOT ca. And tell your friends! Tell your colleagues! Tell your students! Tell your readers, because the more of these I get, the more fun I’ll have grading exams, and the more fun you’ll have reading about the experience. Because there is a silver lining to the black, black cloud that is teaching completely unsuccessful classes to completely unprepared students.