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Things my precalculus students said in class yesterday

“So we’re just supposed to KNOW that 7x^2 is like 7 TIMES x^2?” “There’s no solution [to the equation x^2=3.52534231], because you can’t take the square root of a decimal.” “Okay, I see how you got 2x=1.46, but how did you get x=0.73 from that?” “Last week’s test was totally unfair – you never gave us a homework problem where we…

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Little Miss Math Teacher

The following conversation wouldn’t be noteworthy, were it not for the fact that I’ve had it a good half a dozen times in the last two months: Female Stranger: Are you a student at the college? Me: Actually, I teach there. FS: (eyes bulge) You do? What do you teach? Me: I teach math. FS: (eyes bulge, voice becomes high and…

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Or maybe they just studied really hard.

My early afternoon precaclulus class has always been a shade weaker than my late afternoon precalculus class; class averages tend to differ by around 5% from one class to the next. Until this week. Class average on the early afternoon test: 58%. I found this bewildering, as I thought that this test was considerably easier than the previous two. My…

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Standardization, freedom to teach, and the university marketplace File under: Righteo

I have a question for the university instructors, particularly the math instructors, who read this: How does your university reconcile a commitment to high standards with a desire to create a good work environment for its instructors who wish to teach freely? For that matter, how does it reconcile both with the fact that so many students are overwhelmingly ill-prepared…

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Lest I ever consider teaching elementary school math in Georgia

…and lest I ever make the mistake of thinking that standardization is necessary compatible with high standards: I’m writing an introductory math text for – swear to God – an Indian company that’s outsourcing work to me, howdoyoulikethemapples. In searching for some inspiration for applications of fractions, I ran across this teacher guide. Quoth the introduction: The lesson is created for day…

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Two quick stories about my classes

1. Yesterday, a handful of students from my late morning class arrived in class bedecked in holiday garb – goblins, witches, and ghosts were the most popular. “Miss,” one student said, “are you dressing up as anything for Hallowe’en?” “Yeah,” I replied, “I’m dressing up as a math teacher.” Twenty-five students rolled their eyes at me. “Come on,” I challenged,…

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One man, n votes

Buoyed by a surge of student queries of the form, “what applications does this have in real life?” I was inspired to dust off an old copy – the library’s – of John Allen Paulos’ A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper. By the time I finished rereading the brief aside on measuring shareholder and voter power, I had abandoned my original goal…

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Back to basics

The other day, I wrote about my university math students not knowing their times tables or how to add fractions. (By the way, you should go read the excellent comments to that one, which I will reply to eventually – where did all of my awesome commenters come from?) A few days earlier, Erin O’Connor, an English-prof-turned-high-school-English-teacher, posted an English teacher’s equivalent: grammatically…

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