The semester ended for me a couple of weeks ago, but most of that time has been spent dealing with Peanut’s lip surgery (which went extremely well). I’ve got the kids at home by myself through the end of the week, and then summer work begins in earnest. Here’s what I have on tap, most of which I’ll be blogging about to some extent.

- Preparing for the Reconnect conference at the end of July. I’m reading Foundations of Statistical Natural Language Processing by Christopher Manning and Hinrich Schutze and Machine Learning by Tom Mitchell. I’ve made it through the first couple of chapters of Manning/Schutze — pretty basic so far, but it promises to be interesting. Part of the “basics” are the basics of linguistics, which I’ve never studied before but have been curious about.
- Revamping the mastery exams for Calculus Preparation. Students in this course (formerly known as Precalculus) have to pass a series of short exams with a high rate of success in order to receive above a D+ in the course. Up until now, there were eight exams to pass with a 95% or higher in various areas of basic math and algebra. We are cutting that number to six exams and lowering the cutoff to 90%. This involves rewriting the exams, and I am trying to make the exams template-based so that they can be generated easily.
- Preparing for the no-textbook version of Modern Algebra. I’ve been pretty quiet about this lately because I’ve had other stuff to do that was higher priority, but now it’s time to start putting this together. Much more to come on this as it unfolds.
- Finishing — really — the dual-degree program in engineering with the local big university that I started last summer. Oh, what a sordid affair it’s been since last summer. More on this later.
- Getting a reasonable collection of screencasts ready for the fall. I’m planning on starting with some introductions to Derive (which we use in Calculus and Calculus Preparation) and the little LaTeX crash course that I now inflict upon my Methods of Problem Solving students and any upper-level student who hasn’t seen LaTeX before.
- Working with a local high school on a dual-enrollment program. Students in this program would take AP Calculus at the high school and get credit (if they pass the course) at my college, whether or not they take or pass the AP exam. This involves working with the AP Calculus teacher on tweaking his course to match the kinds of things we do. I’ve worked with the guy a little bit up to this point, including doing an informal classroom observation, and I am very impressed with him and his class. In a lot of ways the high school AP classes can actually be better than the college versions. High school AP courses tend to draw the top students, whereas calculus tends to just be a general-purpose weed-out course at the college level that students have to take whether they are ready or not.

But for today, I am taking my kids to the zoo. I may not be very smart but I do have my priorities straight!

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Surgery? I must have missed something. And believe it or not, I’ve never been to the Indy Zoo.

Glad to hear the surgery went well!

Could you elaborate on the specific skills you’re assessing on the Calc Prep/Pre-Calc mastery exams? I’d love to have another perspective on what is “needed” for success in Calc.

Jackie – I thought your question deserved a whole post of its own. Look for it at the top of the blog.