Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Notes on calculus

Cris de coeur

I think I gave my students too much time on last session's calculus final. Some of them lingered over their exams and wrote me notes. That's a bit unusual. I guess they wanted to share.

R wrote the shortest and starkest note: “BAD DAY!”

I'm not entirely sure what that was all about. He ended up earning an A in the class. It probably was related to his having done some of the problems three times, as best as I could tell from his multiple erasures and scribblings. (Like I said: too much time.) He had ample opportunity to question his answers and drive himself to distraction. Fortunately, he managed to hang on to his sanity and his grade.

J jammed his tongue into his cheek and wrote a blurb for the multivariate extremum problem:
If you like computation, you'll love problem #6. Come on down and try one on for size, this Sunday only, all problem 6's must go!
J's remark strongly reminded me of a marginal note penned by a university student who worked with me years ago on a solutions manual. On a page of business applications problems, he wrote
Hey, kids! Why not create your own system of economics! (Hint: Try to use functions and derivatives!)
I figure that leaked out of his brain after a night-long session of problem-checking. (And now it's stuck in my brain.)

I was especially charmed by H's lengthy effort, which ran all the way to the bottom of the sheet of paper where she started it and spilled over for a few additional lines on the back of the page. She had been busy studying the night before and preparing the notecard I permit them to use on tests. H discovered that she had achieved self-knowledge, always a disconcerting thing during an exam (especially a math exam):
P.S. I thought it was kind of funny— i was going through my notes while making my notecard to see if I had left myself any great pearls of wisdom & i found all these random sayings like “furlongs per fortnight“ & recalcitrant ... figures those will be the only 2 things i remember from calc 3 in 20 yrs... Well, maybe not... You've beaten the cone thing into our head pretty well... baskin & robbins trips are forever tainted... i'm going to catch myself yellin @ the ice cream scooper guy to get with it, locate the centroid of my beloved sugar cone, & gently place my choc chip cookie dough smack where it belongs...

Great... i'm one of THOSE people...
Come. Join us! (Don't be afraid.) You will be assimilated. (Resistance is useless!)

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