Where the time goes


[Updates:
(1) Finally got the link to the file to work. It will take you to a separate page first, but then click on the link you get to open the file.
(2) Welcome, Carnival of Education readers. There’s a follow-up to this post here, and more stuff on education here.]

I came up with this document (where-does-time-go.pdf, 200 KB PDF) while working on some course planning today for calculus, and I’m pretty proud of it.

I was inspired by this page of stuff from Steven Zucker, a math professor at Johns Hopkins, as well a thought from Learning Curves that going Greek is the equivalent time-wise of signing up for a class. (I made it three hours instead of two, and I can’t find the precise post where that was mentioned, otherwise I’d link it.)

My assumptions here (8 hours of sleep a night, three meals a day at one hour per meal, etc.) may seem a little unlikely, but any overestimation of time would be made up for by unplanned time expenses (time spent walking to class, time spent in the shower, etc.). If you accept the numbers in the document, students have about 37 hours a week of time that they don’t spend asleep, eating, attending class, or working on class. About five hours a day. That’s downright extravagant! Can I have that lifestyle, please? The catch, of course, is how that free time gets spent, which is the point of the document and the minilecture that will accompany it.

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11 Comments

Filed under Education, Life in academia, Student culture

11 responses to “Where the time goes

  1. Rob

    You left out blogging as a major, mandatory time sinkūüėČ

  2. Jessica

    Dr. T – I’d like to see this document. Can I ask why you are assuming that college students don’t have jobs? All of my friends in college had a job. I would also say that most of them HAD to have a job to pay for their education or books or food. I’d like to hear your thoughts there. While college was a great time, “free time” was unheard of between racing back and forth from work to class and then back to work.

  3. Jessica — Send me an email and I’ll forward it to you.

    I’m not assuming students don’t have jobs. I’m saying that there is only so much time available for students to have jobs, once they have budgeted time for class, classwork, and basic personal maintenance (eating and sleeping), specifically about 37 hours a week. If a student wants to have a job, then that’s fine, but if they want to work 40+ hours a week then they’re going to have to cut corners on something to make it work. And if they want to be in a Greek organization or play sports, then even 20+ hours per week in a job — i.e. a simple part-time job — is going to require some re-budgeting.

    The point is that many students just simply never even conceive of time as something limited in supply, and therefore valuable, and therefore needing strict management. And sadly, most freshman orientation programs never push the centrality of time management and personal discipline, and the concept that time for academics and personal maintenance must go in FIRST and all the social/athletics stuff LATER is totally unheard-of in student orientations. Most students budget in time to work, play sports, and socialize (none of which is bad, BTW) and try to make their academics fit with what’s left over, and that’s totally backwards IMO, and we college types need to start saying so and stop being afraid of cramping the students’ style.

    And note that I define “free” time as any time not spent doing class work, eating, or sleeping. Of course one can commit “free” time to something like a job, or church attendance, or whatever, thereby making it no longer “free” in the absolute sense.

    Most students “had” to get a job… I’m not saying you’re wrong there, but I think a lot of students could get by with less income than they think they need if they look hard for financial aid and live a simpler lifestyle.

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  5. Thinking back to my own college days, skipping breakfast was pretty common during my first two years; that would have freed up enough time for my part-time job as a calculus grader (5-8 hours a week).

    My other big time savings was that I didn’t spend nearly as much time in class as your students. In a typical term, my classes only took 9.75 hours a week of class time (quarter system: 3 classes per quarter x 3 class periods a week x 65 minutes a class period). This was the standard course load at Dartmouth; taking 4 courses was considered an overload, and signing up for a fourth class involved jumping through administrative hoops. Maybe this is what the party school of the Ivy League should use this as a selling point: Even if you go to all your classes and do a worst-case-scenario of 3 hours of homework for each hour of class, your course load will still take up less than 40 hours a week, giving you a plenty of time to goof off. Ivy League: There’s a good reason why we’re considered education for the leisure class.

    Certainly I did my share of goofing off while in college. I don’t know how my students do it taking WAY more courses than I ever did. (Taking five courses was FORBIDDEN of me!)

    I fondly recall the spring term when I only took TWO courses (still considered a full load! Love that quarter system!): a number theory course with no exams and no written work and a physics class that I was taking pass-fail. That was the only term that I got a 4.0.

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  10. mrc

    Heads up: the link http://www.castingoutnines.net/where-does-time-go.pdf doesn’t give me a PDF. Feel free to delete my comment when you get this message.

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