Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Progression of a Weak Student

Every semester, there is a clear track that some students seem to fall into, which is roughly as follows:
After the first homework is graded: "I had a really bad time on this assignment, but I'm going to work really hard and I'm going to bring my grade up."

After Test 1: "I'm going to study hard and do really well on my other tests, so doing so badly on this test won't hurt me so much."

After Test 2: "I'm going to do really, REALLY well on the third test and final, and then those will bring up my scores on my first two tests."

At some point in the semester: "You drop the lowest lab/homework/quiz/whatever score, right?"

After Test 3: "Does the final exam grade replace your lowest test grade if you do better?" (I can guarantee I will get this question from at least one student as a test is being turned in. It does not bode well for the student's performance on that test.)

After the Final: "Is there anything else I can do to bring my grade up?" (Hint to my students: There's a reason we use the word "Final".)

Of course, all of this is complicated by the fact that the weakest students in my classes are those who are really bad at math, and therefore can't correctly average their grades. A friend of mine had a student who got an 80 on the first test, failed the second test miserably, and didn't come to the third test at all. My friend was startled when the student (who hadn't been coming to class or turning in homework either) showed up to a review session for the final exam. She took the student aside and asked, "You do realize you can't pass the class, right?" The student was shocked: "I thought I had a B!"

Saturday, December 10, 2005

A Brief Update

I've been meaning to post for a while, but it's that time in the semester. In fact, I've got some semi-technical posts I've worked on a bit and haven't decided whether to put up or not. So some brief updates follow, since I'm in today letting someone take an exam.

  • Our office floor continues pretty much as usual. The white board degenerated from a lesson on elementary graph theory to something else about a month or so ago:
    Geomotron and a Cat
    (Yes, Geomotron and the cat were my creations.) Eventually Ooga-Booga got involved:
    Ooga Booga Meets Geomotron
    I suggested to some other people on the hall that we have enough interesting things going on to create our own prime-time dramatic series.
  • I went down to Atlanta again for Thanksgiving. My partner has a new kitten. I'm not sure what the kitten would think of Geomotron, but he would almost certainly attempt to play with it, since it seems to be his main method of interaction with everything. (He's not too discriminating; he gets excited if you just wiggle your fingers in front of him.)
  • Just as an aside, I've recently discovered that it's possible to rewrite "The Little Drummer Boy" into an alternative song about a boy who didn't even have a drum and had to play a different instrument. I call it "Little Flatulent Boy" (or something worse). You don't even have to change the 'Barump-pum-pum-pum's. It's fun, too.
  • I have a student wanting to have a few extra days to study for a final, and I'm somewhat inclined to just let her. If I do, I have to resist the urge to say, "Sure, and how much more rope do you need?" There are always some students who believe in end-of-semester miracles. I've never actually seen one 'though.
  • I now have five job applications out for next year, including one at my own alma mater. I'm really hoping I can leave next year (finally). Think good thoughts for me.
  • I'm in today giving some make-up finals and grading. (Hence why I've suddenly found time to post here.) I'm also eating bagels and donuts that another instructor had left over after bringing in breakfast for his students taking a 7:45 am final. Now I owe him breakfast, which is problematic, considering the likelihood of either of us being up early enough to eat breakfast again in the near future.

I think that will have to do for now, but perhaps I'll be back soon. Happy Holidays to all, and good wishes.