Informal Description

Here is some additional information and advice to give you a better idea what to expect from this class, how to enjoy it and do well, and help you decide whether or not this class is for you.

  • This is the eleventh time I have taught this class, so I have a pretty good feel for how it will go.

  • This class will probably be quite large by COA standards. You and I will need to work together creatively to make sure that this classtime is comfortable and effective, and that outside of class people are able to get all the help they need. I have taught this class with more than thirty students and it worked out fine.

  • Falling behind in this course is not a good idea. If you're confused about something, it's very important that you seek help sooner rather than later. There are many people around who can offer help. However, we can't offer assistance if we don't know who needs it when. You need to take responsibility to seek help if you need it. On a related note ...

  • I do not expect all of the homework assignments to be easy; I don't expect you to be able to sit down and do them easily the first time. Don't let yourself get frustrated -- I strongly suggest working with others and seeking help if you need it.

  • In many more traditional math classes the textbook has a ton of examples in them. The book we'll be using doesn't. The result is that students sometimes find the homework to be challenging, frustrating, and occasionally even annoying. However, I'm convinced that this style of homework -- where there's not an example just like the problem you're trying to do -- is much better pedagogically. You'll learn a lot more this way.

  • Each week part of your assignment will be done using an online homework system. We will use WeBWorK, a system developed by the Mathematical Association of America. It has been in use for quite a few years and is used at many colleges and universities. There are several advantages to an online system:
    1. You get instant feedback while doing the work, so you can learn right away from your mistakes. You can submit solutions many times until you get everything correct.
    2. Since the problems are automatically marked, the TAs and I can spend more time helping you and won't have to spend as much time grading.
    3. Some problems are randomized so that you will all get slightly different versions of the questions. This means that collaborating with other students will be maximally effective, since you'll have to share solution methods and not just the final answer.
    WeBWorK can be a bit fussy and annoying at times. If you are struggling with the system, please don't get frustrated: ask for assistance.

  • In addition to me presenting ideas and examples, there will frequently be problems to work on in small groups in class. Use this time well -- it is a chance to try out some ideas and get on the right track before starting the homework.

  • You may need to read the textbook in order to do some of the homework. I won't be able to cover everything in class, or you might wish to see a topic explained in a different way.

  • I very strongly recommend getting your own copy of the textbook. I think you'll learn more if you have your own copy to take notes in and always have with you when you're doing problems.

  • This class is a lot of work, but the work is fairly steady from week to week.

  • There are four parts to the class, each with a distinct feel.

    1. Review of functions. This may seem both too slow and too fast at the same time. The last week of this part of the class is always difficult. Experience has shown, however, that the review of functions is definitely worth it. It is essential for the rest of the course.

    2. Introduction to the derivative. Here we will learn what the derivative is and what it means. This is more conceptual and sometimes seems odd to those used to less conceptual and more algebraic ways of thinking about math.

    3. Techniques of differentiation. Having learned what the derivative is, we now learn lots of short cuts to calculate it. This part of the class is the most traditional, in that you'll learn some formulas and techniques, and then do lots of practice of those techniques.

    4. Applications of derivatives. Here we will learn several different ways derivatives get used. This is the most applied part of the course. It is somewhat more difficult, but most students find it the most interesting, too, and a good way to end the class.