Frequently Asked Questions

Is attendance required?

I will not take attendance explicitly. By missing class you will lose out on my brilliant lectures.

Can I turn in my homework/project/assignment late?

Things are due at the start of class. If it's the same day but after class, you can turn it in and take a 10% penalty. After that, forget it.

What can I do for extra credit?

Nothing. There are already opportunities to earn points other than through exams and quizzes. Maximize your points on those so that you have some cushion.

What should I do if I must miss an exam?

In an emergency situation, of course an exam is not a priority. Get in contact with me as soon as you can. If you have advance notice of some conflict, you should make a clear effort to notify me before the exam. By not getting prior approval, you risk scoring a zero for the exam.

Illness is not a valid excuse without a doctor's note. (Doctors are usually quite generous with these!) If you are away because of a family emergency or death, or some other extenuating circumstance, please bring me some kind of documentation, such as a police accident report, etc. (I'm sorry if this seems morbid, but desperate people will take advantage of blind trust.) Alternatively, the office of Student Life can issue an official excuse for all of your classes.

How can I improve my grade?

Depends on what you're doing now. The first thing is to get to class on time and rested. It helps if you try to read the book ahead of lecture. You'll have to read it eventually anyway, so this is no more work. Assuming you're putting in a decent quantity of time, consider the quality of your study time. Avoid distractions (roommates, music, internet, etc.). Don't copy from others or from solution books--the homework isn't worth a lot of points, and a habit of tenacious failure is more helpful than one of quick capitulation. If you're doing the homework problems in order, then mix them up. If #7 is just like #5, then you already know how to do it so come back to it later.

Check. What else?

Ask questions during lecture or discussion. If you still don't understand something, ask about it in office hours. Go to the tutor room. If your class has student instructor sessions, attend those. Find a study group. Beg help from people who have taken the class. Find a private tutor (Math office 1020 Cowley Hall).

How do I prepare for a midterm exam?

Try the review problems at the end of each chapter, so that you can ask pointed questions. Prioritize the material--often the number and type of assigned homework problems is a huge clue. Spend time on your weaknesses: getting the first 50% of a problem right is worth more to your grade than the last 10%.

Force yourself to practice under conditions close to those of a real test: Write out and mix up several problems, close all study material, and time yourself. You might even want to assign consequences to the results so that you're under real pressure.

How do I prepare for the final exam?

Your first priority should be material covered since the last midterm, as you've never been tested on that. Next, pay attention to the end-of-chapter review materials in the book. A big part of a final is recognizing problem types, so copy problems out of order onto a sheet, put it away, and test yourself (under timed conditions) the next day. Working section problems, where the name of the section gives the method away, is a lot less effective.

Why are math classes so hard?

Imagine learning a foreign language. It uses an odd alphabet containing hundreds of symbols. This language has a large vocabulary, which, though it contains familiar-sounding words, gives each term a precise, inflexible, and unfamiliar meaning. The language is subject to a grammar that is (mostly!) logical but complex. Now add theroems which assert that strange sentences that appear to be completely different, such as "I am a brown dog" and "Seat belts wear mustard", have exactly the same meaning.

What could be hard about that?

So why do we have to learn it?

As Galileo said, "The book of nature is written in mathematical language." If you want to understand the physical universe in a way that lets you predict and control it with some precision, then stay tuned.