Class, College, and Life

Why Are You Here? | Who Are You? | Mathematics is a Gateway | Changes in Your Life | How To Succeed | Cheating | About Me |


This discussion will help you to explore what you are doing here and how best to do it. There are strong words in this document. It is meant to get your attention, to remind you of the importance and seriousness of the enterprise on which you are embarking: college. Some parts of this journey are difficult, but the rewards are great. You don't get the latter without surviving the former.

But two things make this particular challenge special. Your mistakes can be just as valuable as your successes, and you are not alone while you are here.

Why Are You Here?

You are checking off a requirement
If this is all you've got, I have little to say to you that you will hear. You will do the minimum. You will not take advice.
Unless you are very talented, you will not excel.

You are going somewhere
You may or may not know yet where you are going, but if you want to make a difference, then this university and this class are important steps that will help you get there. In this case, I have much to say to you. Some I will say here and now, some more during the course of the semester.

If this is you, you want to help make the future of your world, your country, and yourself. You will look for all possible opportunities to learn, not just do the assigned work.

You will factor my mathematical and educational experience into your decisions. Note I did not say you will always agree with me. But you will think about my advice and have well-thought-out reasons for your choices.

If you have a modicum of talent, a good work ethic, and the required background, you will succeed.

Who Are You?

In each line, which word, A or B, best describes you?

boxProducer boxConsumer
boxLeader boxFollower
boxProblem Solver boxComplainer
boxStudent boxPartier

bill What value will you take from your time at Stetson? There are many opportunities here, scattered around like $100 bills on the sidewalk. Some of these opportunities include clubs, lectures, musical performances, summer research grants, internships, awards for excellence. One of the most valuable commodities at Stetson, one that you pay dearly for, is access to your professors outside of class. These opportunities do not jump into your hand. Will you stop to pick them up?

boxGrabs the Money boxWhatever

Mathematics As A Gateway

The news these days is full of problems: the economy, health care, energy, education. These problems are special to us and at the same time they are not. Every era has its challenges. That's life. We search for solutions, we encounter setbacks, we make progress, and we move on to the next job. We also enjoy the fruits of our labors, we laugh and love, and celebrate the miracle of just being here. So don't despair, get busy! Live!

gate1 Mathematics is a gateway to solutions of all of our current problems: generally, the study of mathematics develops quantitative reasoning skills, critical thinking, and problem-solving ability. Mathematics is the language of science and technology, necessary parts to the solutions of the future. Whether your interests are in economics, medicine, scientific research, technology, psychology, or public policy, an understanding and appreciation of the uses of mathematics will make you a more effective participant. Don't be locked out of the Emerald City because you forgot the ruby slippers. gate2

You and your peers around the world will find solutions to many of our current problems, and you will contribute to the progress of our species. If you are frustrated by the double bind of a declining outlook for new jobs and the refusal of the Baby Boomers to retire, consider the thoughts of Anna Quindlen. The retiring Newsweek columnist notes (18 May 2009) that as aging journalists and pundits continue to fight yesterday's battles in old-fashioned media, the younger generation has moved onto the internet, exploiting it in new ways. Their young voices, full of new ideas, are pushing aside their elders. Similar opportunities in other fields await those who seek them out.

Your Life Is Changing

Stetson is not high school.
Stetson is not community college.
Stetson is not your family home.
home arrow stetson

You have more freedom and more responsibility. You will garner more rewards and suffer more consequences.

You are now responsible for every minute of your day, for how much time you study or sleep, for the foods that you eat, for the drugs that you do or do not use. A new environment must be mastered. There is less privacy than you are used to. There are more distractions, and more different kinds of people to get along with. There are a million choices awaiting you, and each one deserves attention.

star Most importantly, previously learned academic strategies that used to work for you must be upgraded to serious college study. More learning takes place outside the classroom than inside. You are responsible for knowing the syllabus, reading all material, keeping up, identifying your questions, and getting them answered. Read your email regularly.

Stetson is not Real Life either.

There are rules and consequences, but there is much assistance.
Stetson can help you turn failures and miscalculations into stepping stones.
Then you'll be ready for real life.
stetson arrow work

How To Succeed

College is a full time job.

star This course alone requires about 10 hours per week of your time: 3 hours in class, 7-8 hours outside of class.

Each week has 168 hours, and you probably have 4 courses. It will help to have a plan.
In Class
Come prepared.
Bring your text, calculator, pencil.
Bring questions and comments.
Be polite and attentive: turn your phone off, focus on the topic.

Take notes in a notebook.
Write on one side of the page only.
Use the facing page for questions and comments.
Explain the class notes to yourself in your own words.
Come to tests with your calculator, extra batteries, pencils, and eraser.

Outside Class
Read the book! Not everything is covered in lecture.
Review recent material.
Read and amend your notes.
Try the exercises.
Ask yourself questions.
Try to answer them yourself.
Read the section for the next class.
Visit my office; let me get to know you.

Do your homework in a notebook, and again use only one side of the page. Use the facing page for questions, corrections, and comments.

When you get stuck, ask yourself questions, take time off, try again. When that doesn't work, get help. Try me first — I make the tests ☺ Different people process mathematics differently. If the lecture doesn't make sense to you, come talk in my office. If I know you better, I will know how to help you connect with the material. Other resources are the Math Clinic, other students in this class, and Academic Resources (help with general study skills).

weight Practice mathematics as you would a sport or a musical instrument. Doing one problem correctly does not mean you are good at that kind of problem. Do many problems of each type at different times.

Taking a test is like lifting a 100-pound weight. You must start with lighter weights weeks in advance, build up your strength, and lift 150-pound weights for practice. Then take that 100-pound test.

Alternatively, to perform a concerto successfully, you start practicing well ahead of time, work on your technique, and practice more challenging pieces as well.

Take a tip from research on successful people: study your mistakes. Athletes, musicians, scientists, movie directors, military commanders, and backgammon players all become the best by dwelling on their mistakes and finding ways to prevent them. Reliving successes feels good and has its place, but the mistakes hold the key to progress.

Choose your friends wisely. Hanging out with people you want to be like is a self-fulfilling wish. Make room for fun, regularly, but your school work is first and primary.

Cheating: Don't.

Effective learning requires a contract between you and me.
We both must be fair in doing our jobs.
Cheating is an insult to me, to your classmates, and, most permanently, to yourself.
Cheating in math is easy to spot.
In this class, cheating will not be tolerated.

In all things, I give you the benefit of the doubt until you act otherwise. Speak the truth. Act honorably. Abide by the Stetson Honor Pledge. During a test, I may leave the room because I trust you not to cheat. Similarly, if you need a break, turn your test over and go.

About Me

I wear all the hats necessary to be a teacher:
fan, teammate, coach, referee.
I'm helpful, friendly, and sympathetic.
I follow the rules that I advertise.

My job as a professor is to give you opportunities to learn. That means that I give you problems, not answers. When I lift the weight, your muscles are not strengthened. When I play the concerto, your talent is not developed.

But I listen, I help, I guide, and, yes, sometimes I do give answers, but only as a first step to model your own search for them. An important goal is for you to become more independent.

I grade on your mastery of the material as shown on the tests. I do not give points for attendence, homework, or other effort on your part. Effort is necessary, but not sufficient. Your answers to test questions are graded on how well they show your understanding, so be sure to show any relevant work and give reasons or explanations.

Discussion and dissent are welcome. If you are questioning the math, you may do so in class. In fact, that will add to the interest and learning opportunities for everyone. If you have a question about your grade, do so outside of class. There is no penalty for politely arguing about the grade; if you're right, I'll change it.

My office hours are posted, and I can be there other times by appointment. I will respond to your email quickly when I can, including most nights and weekends. Call my office any time. All my contact information is on the course handout and on my home page. You are always welcome. Please be aware that if you are asking for math help in a timely fashion, you'll find the coach or the teammate. If you're looking for help with other problems, you'll find the fan. But if you have not followed through with your part in the educational process, you may find the ref.

I have several faces. Sometimes I'm shy, sometimes I'm outgoing. I like hearing about other people and what they think. In writing and lecturing I can be somewhat formal. That is part of my nature as a mathematician — I want to be precise, to be understood in dealing with my duties as your professor. Other times, I am much less formal. I enjoy humor, I attempt flights of fancy that sometimes get off the ground, and I'm prone to light sarcasm and irony. These are my comfort zones. You will have your own comfort zones, and, within the bounds of classroom ettiquette, all different styles are welcome here.

Know that I respect all of my students, no matter their majors, abilities, or backgrounds. Everyone has something to offer, and I don't favor gifted students over others. If I occasionally tease, it's because I like you, and I mean no offense. Feel free to give it back.

Why Are You Here? | Who Are You? | Mathematics is a Gateway | Changes in Your Life | How To Succeed | Cheating | About Me |

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