William Glum again, eh? What happened this time?
Matt In my Algebra Sans Algebra class, I asked a student to go to the board and work out whether the times series (0.7, 0.7, 0.7, 0.7, 0.7, …) was an example of linear growth, exponential, or both.
William Time series—
Matt —Don’t even try and tell me it’s difficult. We have been covering this material for two weeks. It should only have taken a day, but I spent two solid weeks going over and over and over the same things.
William You taught the equation of a straight line and an exponential line for two weeks?
Matt You know that I did. This student could not get started. I even sketched the axes of a graph on the board. All she had to do was to plot those numbers.
William Some people are shy when they’re in front of a class.
Matt Shyness wasn’t this student’s problem. I asked the whole class, “Help her out. What should she do?” There were various suggestions, most of them wrong.
William Aha! You said “most.” That means that some students knew the answer!
Matt I sometimes worry about you. The title of this series is “Too many kids go to college” not “All kids should not go to college.” What bothered me was that a majority of the class was clueless. That makes it hard to thrill to the few who understood.
William What happened?
Matt I finally had to tell her, “Just draw a horizontal line anywhere on the graph. Any horizontal line.” Can you guess what she said?
William I won’t play that game anymore.
Matt Exactly. She had no idea what a horizontal line was. And don’t claim “Nervousness!” or something equally idiotic. She told me, “I don’t understand.” I started qi-gonging the air, waving my hand in a straight line. “Just draw a flat line across the graph!”
William So she eventually got it.
Matt Yes, I suppose she eventually did manage to scrawl something that resembled a line.
William All’s well etc.
Matt But it didn’t end well. The graph, don’t forget, was not the answer to the question I had asked.
William This was just one student, you know. Nobody ever claimed that all students can understand math.
Matt It wasn’t just one student, it was many. And lots of people make that claim. Not to be abrupt, but did you hear the story of Victoria Ying, a CUNY professor teaching second-year Anatomy and Physiology class?
William Second year?
Matt According to the paper, “Ying, who began teaching full-time at City Tech in 2006, realized something wasn’t right one day in her second semester after she gave a lecture on arteries and veins. ‘A student came up to me and asked: “What is an artery?”‘ recalled Ying, 31.”
William This is the second year anatomy class?
Matt Then the poor lady had her wallet stolen, called the cops, who came, but informed her that the thieves were under-aged. She reported these events to her higher ups, which is when her troubles really began.
William How so?
Matt The school accused her of having a “sexual relationship” with a student. She says it’s a lie meant to shut her up.
William Is it?
Matt Who knows? But that artery story smells fresh to me.
Matt And then there’s Richard Quinn down in Central Florida. Some senior “business” students got hold of Quinn’s exam and shared it out with the class. Many took it and cheated.
William What happened?
Matt He said he received some “tip-offs from students that classmates had been bragging about cheating”, which won’t surprise you. The bragging, I mean. Quinn is making everybody take a re-test, and the school itself is going to kick out those who don’t confess.
William And lose valuable tuition dollars?
Matt What’s interesting in that video of Quinn reading the riot act to the kids, is that one student can be seen in the foreground playing on his laptop, studiously ignoring Quinn.
William Perhaps he was taking notes.
Matt Sure he was. But the big question, the one I want to ask students, is, Why cheat on something that you can master in minutes?
William Kids these days have a lot of social commitments.
Matt Maybe it’s better you don’t talk at all, if you’re going to say things like that. And there’s the student who has to miss my next exam because he has a court date, the necessary consequence of being arrested.
Matt This school even made the national papers of late, telling of its reputation as a “drinking college.”
William Not good.
Matt The opposite is true: it’s a positive boon! Many kids choose to come here because of that reason. This reputation is so lucrative that the administrators ought to goose it and do a deal with beer companies. Rowdy drinkers could be portrayed wearing the college’s colors in commercials, for example. Just think of how enrollment would swell!