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.


The Rock Sage said...

My "Earth, Our Planet" students also must have had trouble reading the questions or understanding them enough to realize that they had to divide one number by another number in order to get the answer (not just find it in the table ... though that number was there as a decoy); 1 person out of 18 figured it out.

Other students were surprised that there was math of any kind in a "general science" course. I found out later that most of my students were taking algebra and
trig or remedial algebra and were confused by scientific notation and unit conversion (say km to cm).

TMWA said...

Math in science? I've never heard of such a thing. :-) And anyway, can't you just forget anything you learn in one class once you finish the class?

Thankfully for your students, we actually teach unit conversion explicitly in several math classes (although of course they won't remember it when they finish the course.) I'm afraid I tend not to spend much time on scientific notation, 'though. However, the book I'm not crazy about this semester does spend 2.5 pages on how to round numbers.