Fall preview


It’s August, which means the start of school is just around the corner. The public schools and my kids’ preschool start on August 11. Classes start for me on August 26, but there’s a run-up of meetings and other activities that consume the entire week prior to that. With all this stuff about to commence, here’s an overview of what’s on the plate this fall. I don’t blog about what’s going on at work or what my students do, but I do use CO9s to flesh out thoughts or experiences I have about what I’m doing. So this should give some context.

  • Teaching two sections of calculus. Although I didn’t blog much about it, I taught calculus in an 8-week evening format this summer and I thought it went very well. I was running the class with an eye towards reusability; I’m hopeful that I can reuse all the stuff that I prepped during the summer for my fall courses so that my energy can be devoted to teaching and grading and not so much on prepping.
  • Teaching my sophomore course on Methods of Problem Solving. This will be the eighth running of this course since I first designed it back in 2001, and frankly I’ve never quite gotten it to where I want it. I am breaking with my usual form and using a textbook this time around and doing a few other different things to try and be more effective with a very difficult pedagogical problem: how to teach students who have been immersed in a basic calculus course for a year and who tend to think of math in terms of calculus exercises how to experiment, conjecture, and prove theorems.
  • Teaching my upper-level course on Geometry. Actually I have a lot in store for geometry in general, and if it works out I will blog some more about that separately.
  • Being chair of the Promotion and Tenure Committee this year, which is a huge responsibility — although we have a lighter-than-usual load of faculty coming up for tenure or promotion this year for whatever reason.
  • Continuing to direct our new dual-degree engineering program. This program has generated a lot of buzz, but since it’s not a major on campus, I really don’t know how many actual students it’s going to attract. But regardless of population, this programs gotten me to think a lot about how engineering and the liberal arts interact.

And of course there’s a thousand little things that are always on the task list, but that’s life in academia.

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5 Comments

Filed under Higher ed, Life in academia, Teaching

5 responses to “Fall preview

  1. Pingback: My Fall Preview

  2. Jeez, that’s a heavy load.

    I am curious about the Methods of Problem Solving. What text? Will you write more?

    Jonathan

  3. @jd2178: I’ll be writing a lot more about the problem solving course as the semester gets going. The book I chose is Ted Sundstrom’s Mathematical Reasoning: Writing and Proof.

    As for my load, I agree. I teach 24 credit hours per year averaged over a two-year period; usually it’s split unevenly, e.g. a fall semester with 14 hours followed by a spring semester with 10. Every year I have been at my current institution, I have had at least one semester teaching in excess of 13 hours.

  4. Jami

    I was just catching up on the blog and noticed a little irony… :)

    I know that you are fully able to handle all of the different aspects of work that you do, and they all add value to your life, I am sure, but dont you find it just a tad bit ironic that you just blogged about college students doing too many extracurriculars, and then you go and list all of the “extra” things that you do? :)

    Again, I know there is a big difference between what you are talking about and the traditional college “extracurriculars”, i just couldnt pass up pointing that out. I’ve noticed in my lengthing adult life that too many people spend too much time making a competition out of how much “stuff” they do, or who is the busiest person. Because apparently, the busier you are, the more successful you are. Oh how I hate that mentality, but it seems to be the most overwhelming trait that we learn from so many role models.

    Oh, and by the way… boo on using a book for MOPS! :) And that will always be the one single class that taught me that math is so, so much more than just doing problems out of a book, so dont discredit yourself too much!

  5. Jami – Thanks for the shout out re: MOPS. I really feel like a traitor for using the book, but the last few iterations of the course have gone such that I really think the students could use more structure. And textbooks do provide that, if nothing else. But I’ve made a promise to myself not to use a book after this year. Your class was so good that I don’t think you guys needed that kind of structure.

    Re: extracurriculars, I think the difference is that many/most college freshmen really have never had to work at time management, and so the potential for some disastrous choices about time are always present until they develop some experience. When I was a freshman, I was the same way, and through a lot of bad judgment I think I’ve made it to the point where I exercise good judgment. When the current crop of freshmen are 30-35 years old then they will probably be able to manage their “stuff” a lot better than they can now.

    And believe me, there are a LOT of things in my life I say “no” to right now so that I can invest my time in the handful of things that really do matter to me. I could be a lot busier than I am! And keep in mind that everything on that list is a job requirement, not a choice. :)