Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Amusement from Students

Here I just collect a few of the random student incidents which have amused me over the last semester:
• Picture it: I'm in the middle of deriving the quadratic formula (which gives the solutions to a general quadratic equation), and the students are obviously having a lot of trouble with the abstraction, since this is supposed to cover all possible cases. (I also dropped a term or two and had to make corrections as we went, which didn't help.) In the midst of our derivation, a student asks: "Can we do another one after this one?"
• A student tells me he studied the wrong chapter for the exam. It was a chapter we hadn't studied yet. I asked, "Didn't this all seem pretty unfamiliar?" He said, "It always does..."
• Learned from tests: Three lines which meet at a point might be called (1) sedimentary, (2) a midpoint, (3) conclusive, or (4) parallel. (The last is my favorite answer.) A convent is made up of two angles with measures summing to 90 degrees. Many of my algebra students decided that the product of 6 and 9 is 15. One of my colleagues believes some of her students have trouble reading; I have no idea where she gets that idea.
• One student missed class and sent me a note with his homework from the day explaining he couldn't make it because he was in line for a Playstation 3. The note said he was going to sell the Playstation "for a large profit of which I could use for school related bills." He also let me know he was in several TV and newspaper interviews from that day, "if that helps validate my dilema" (sic). I considered taking the homework in exchange for a Playstation 3.
• Another colleague was despairing at the end of the semester because on the final he asked students to calculate how much total they would pay for a \$200,000 home loan paid over 30 years at some standard interest rate. The answers ranged from \$120,000 to eight million dollars. We concluded that we should quit teaching and go into the business of selling home mortgages to our students.