## Wednesday, February 3, 2010

### Differential Equations

When you attend a major university with over 10,000 students enrolled and only 40 of them are majoring in math, you have to ask yourself why. Is it the inability of secondary schools to prepare students for college level math? Maybe. Is it students’ paranoid fear of math? Could be. But since Ariel’s a math major, I’ve discovered the real reason.

She has a professor whose name shall not be used in this blog because Ariel fears retribution—I told her that my blog isn’t that popular, but...his name shall be Dr. Immigrant. Dr. Im is, according to Ariel, a very good differential equations professor. However, there’s more to being a good professor than teaching. Getting homework graded on time so that students can use it to study, actually being at your office hours, writing exams that can actually be finished in the allotted time—these are all important skills that Dr. Im seems to be lacking. But the worst is that his exams have very little to do with what he teaches in class. The students in Ariel’s class have responded in various ways. The engineering students swear at Dr. Im like drunken sailors, before he shows up for class. The math majors cope with the stress by letting their already marginal personal hygiene slip a couple of notches—Ariel excepted. The students who sit in the back and who are clearly thinking of changing their major spend the class time texting all their friends on the utter lameness of DE (differential equations).

Given past history, Dr. Im copes with students' test grades by threatening to fail the entire class and telling them they are probably all D students whose previous professors gave them mercy grades and that they should drop his class and changes majors. Okay, right. In the words of the inimitable Bertie Wooster, “He is foreign, and therefore, excitable.” I would think (note: I’ve a degree in English—and thus have no authority to comment on math) that perhaps the exams and the class materials should have something in common. But that’s just me.

1. The sad thing is, there are probably one or two of these in nearly every department of nearly every university. I blame the system of requiring people who are not good with young people and have no interest in teaching to teach classes when they'd rather be holed up in their labs, researching. I don't know what the answer is, but universities often put such emphasis on research and publication that individuals with little ability or desire to teach are often tenured. (I work at a university and my husband is a PhD student--can you tell we've dealt with this a lot?)

2. Hey. That's not too bad. The Latin Department has about one major, and one of those is Austin.

3. ...Poor Ariel... She has a long road before her.

4. From what I've heard, half the math department at UTC is that way. I'm glad I'm a Bio major.

5. *shudder* ugh. math. not my forte...more power to you, Ariel!

grace duke

6. I'm not afraid of retribution. I just asked you not to use his name because I'm trying to protect the guilty.

7. Of course your afraid of retribution, Ariel.

8. Yep. She's totally afraid of retribution. :)

9. Nope, I'm not. I sincerely doubt "Dr. Im" even knows what a blog is--he's probably too absorbed creating impossible tests to care.