Monday, January 12, 2015

First Day of Class

So I have this health problem. It's seems to be a GI problem, but no one has managed to diagnose it. It used to happen about once a year, for a week. Now it happens more often. Always before my tummy hurts, I notice that my back is tight. I've had lots of ultrasound scans - no gall stones. And a GI scope - no ulcer. It is not clear what's happening. The chiropractor seems to help, but it still lasts a week or so, just milder. The first few times, I was in the emergency room, in agony. This time, I made it through my first day of classes, able to ignore it, and am distracting myself by writing a blog post. Digestive enzymes may be helping. Stress is a factor: the last time it happened was the beginning of fall semester. The time before was when we were interviewing candidates for a position in our department. I think it's time to figure out how to notice stress, and not internalize it this way. Meditation? Yoga? Definitely, I need to get more active.

I was very pleased that I was well enough to ignore my body while I was teaching. I hate not being chipper on the first day.  I was probably less prepared, and less organized in some ways. But that meant that I did new things that I liked.

Calc I. I had 42 students. I talked about math not being as much about memorizing as many students think. We listed some of the things that do need to be memorized, and then I talked about which things might not belong on the list. Then we did the tangent line activity I always start with. Time was a little tight, and I didn't finish attendance. (I'll have to attend to that tomorrow.)  ;^) Tomorrow we'll look at area of a circle, think a little more about today's activity, and start on the first activity from the Boelkins text. I've put together a coursepack with all the handouts for this first unit, so students won't feel so scattered. (We do very little from our Anton textbook in this first unit, and then use the textbook much more for the rest of the course.)

Even though the way I started wasn't anything exciting, I feel excited just because I did something new with the students. It feels like today was a good start.

Linear Algebra. I used the same warmup activity from the last time I taught the course. I don't need to do anything new to be excited about this course. What's new it that I'll be grading their homework (with help from an assistant), instead of just stamping it.

In one of my classes, I talked about neuron development during learning. But I don't remember which class. I am nervous about having two classes in a row with no break between. I hope I can keep track of what I've done and want to do next.

Pre-Calc. I only had 15 students. There is some chance the college will cancel the course. I think I have a great bunch of students, so I am already feeling very invested in doing this course. I have no control over whether it gets canceled, though...

This is the class I wanted to change up some. Our first day hadn't been very memorable in the past few semesters. I couldn't think of anything better than asking them to add up the numbers 1 to 100 (without adding one by one). They worked in groups of four. They looked very stuck for a long time, but seemed willing to keep at it. One student knew a formula, and had the answer written. I asked her to hide that, and try to figure it out without the formula. In another group, I heard something about adding up pairs. When I finally called them all together, I asked for volunteers and got none, and then asked M to explain. They  had started out by adding up the numbers one to ten. (I had suggested that might give them some ideas.) They did the sum one by one at first, so they knew what number it would be. When they noticed 1+10 = 11, and the total was 55, they looked for a reason to multiply by 5. Their reason didn't make much sense to me. (There are five ways to add two numbers to get 10, one of which is 5+5.) So I agreed that multiplying by 5 made sense, and asked if we could think again about that 1+10 pairing. I had to nudge more than I would have with a math circle, but they still did most of the work. They found the sum of one to a hundred in their groups. And then we came up with a 'formula' for summing the numbers one to n. I liked how it went.

I think this class may take off this semester...

I'm sitting in on Calc III. I loved Ed Cruz's talk, about how bad a student he was at first, and how he evolved to become a better student, and then a teacher. No math yet.

Tomorrow my 8am and 11am classes meet for an hour and a half. From 8am to 12:30pm, I'll only have half an hour outside the classroom. Yikes! But being done so close to noon sounded too great to pass up, so I didn't try to change this strange schedule. I see my chiropractor tomorrow afternoon.


  1. Hope your health issues clear up and leave you alone .... pesky body! And Happy New Year!


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